Bush vacations – and US “stingy” comment

Great article in Newday by Les Payne regarding George’s rather lack-lustre dedication to his job. George was a bit slow to respond to the Tsunami because he’s on holiday.

I also need to clarify a point. Most US papers and news sources, especially the Murdoch ones, are reporting that Jan Egeland from the UN called the US stingy. This is actually not true, and is from a false report in the Washington Times. I suspect this misreporting is a deliberate attempt to discredit the UN in the eyes of the American people, as this has been George’s policy for a while – to declare the UN irrelevant.

“Media Matters for America” exposes this in the article “Media echoed false claim that U.N. official called U.S. stingy”:

“In fact, U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs Jan Egeland applied the “stingy” label to “rich countries,” “donor countries,” and “Western countries” in general, never singling out the United States. Moreover, his remark specifically addressed foreign aid budgets not related to the tsunami. In explaining why he expected rich countries to contribute money for tsunami aid, Egeland said that their regular foreign aid allocations were too “stingy” to cope with such an extraordinary disaster.”

Anyway on with the article –

“On the morning of the fourth day, the president spake.

The voice defending the United States from charges of being niggardly with its tsunami aid was indeed that of President George W. Bush. From the ranch at Crawford, Texas, the cowboy-in-chief went into his defensive crouch. The TV caption said “Western White House,” which is to say: presidential vacation. Late December, as all of August, means vacation, come hellfire or tsunami.

The Sunday tsunami knocked out 12 nations following a 9.0 earthquake that jolted the floor of the Indian Ocean so violently that it shuttered the very rotation of our planet. Inland villages, to say nothing of the ones beachfront, were shredded clean to the bone, from Indonesia all the way west to Somalia.

The death toll has spiked above 100,000, with untold lives never to be accounted for by mankind. The ravenous sea has swallowed hundreds, and perhaps thousands, who could have been accounted for only by others who now have no one to account for them. Winds off some of the tsunamis were clocked over 500 mph, pushing avalanches of waters 40 feet high. Sri Lanka and Indonesia were double-barreled as the waves ripped the shorelines of India, Thailand and Mogadishu (the last some 3,000 miles from the epicenter).

Some 72 hours passed before President Bush changed his vacation clothes to address the catastrophe.

The first words from the wealthiest nation on earth had come from his administration promising $15 million in assistance. This initial insult in our name rose to $35 million in the face of charges from a United Nations official that America was being “stingy.” Secretary of State Colin Powell rode out to counter the “stingy” charge only to have his white steed splattered with mud. Concerned Americans who see themselves as citizens of the world noted that, since the onset of this most calamitous natural disaster of our time, President Bush had remained both out of sight and silent.

Under Bush, this steel-helmet republic is spending $87B-plus to wage an unprovoked war against an Arab state whose plight under siege is hardening the hearts of Muslims against this increasingly evangelical White House. Western nations also look askance at Bush’s with-us or agin’-us approach to world diplomacy. The Sept. 11 attacks offered a chance for the United States to lead a united front against terrorism orchestrated by Osama bin Laden. This time, the earthquake-tsunami afforded an opening for statecraft.

The U.S. war president could have doubled as a missionary of peace and compassion, with a respectable tsunami-aid package and a few timely words. He could have extended an olive branch to the world’s largest Muslim country, in Indonesia, as well as to the Hindu-Islamic-Buddhist populations of Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Somalia and the rest.

It is tempting to conclude that some sinister White House policy is at play here. Would Bush have reacted so slowly had the victims not been primarily brown-skinned? The answer may lie in the president’s shocking immobility when his chief of staff informed him that a second jet plane had crashed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. What the nation apparently has saddled itself with is a sitting president who, left alone, is incapable of responding rationally to unscripted events.

The Bush schedule last week called for vacation.

The American people cannot say they weren’t warned about his Advanced Vacation Syndrone (AVS). Barely six months into his first term, he dropped everything – and took a month off. Most American workers, with one-week allotments, would have still been on probation. Bush’s absence almost tied Richard Nixon’s record for the longest presidential stay away from the White House. Even horseback-riding, underbrush-clearing, Ronald Reagan could manage only 28 days away.

The 43rd president put the vacation record out where it poses a serious challenge for his second term. Back in the spring, prior to his August slumber, Bush had spent 40 percent of his time away from the White House, according to The Guardian newspaper, which takes note of such things. Between his inauguration and the 2004 Easter weekend, Bush had reportedly spent 233 days, or almost eight months, in 33 visits to Crawford, Texas, according to CBS News, which conducts a body watch on the president, but at a mandated out-of-sight distance. Tacking on his 78 visits to Camp David and five to the family compound at Kennebunkport, Maine, The Guardian clocked 500 presidential days spent “out of the office while in office.”

The friendlier Washington Post, by August 2003, had clocked Bush with 27 percent of his presidency spent on vacation. Although, to be fair, much of this time is classified as “working vacation.” Work indeed intrudes on the president’s vacation schedule, as it did on Aug. 6, 2001. As reported in the 9/11 Commission Report, Bush’s regular August vacation was interrupted by that CIA briefing warning that Osama bin Laden was determined to attack the United States.

The threat of an al-Qaida attack did not deter Bush from his vacation in 2001. Last week he likely slumbered through the earthquake-tsunamis. Such dedication.”

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