Sunday, January 17, 2010

W on Board for Haiti? Maybe Not a Bad Idea

Let me preface this by saying that, after the last 8 years of Bushit pt II, I really do not have a lot of respect for W. I think he turned the accomplishments of the Clinton years on their head and, when faced with a national disaster like 9/11, either let himself be given very bad advice, or else just showed his true colors.

W's failure to conclusively deal with A-Q in Afghanistan, and then getting us into Iraq, speaks of someone who didn't understand "stratergy" beyond getting elected. Good people like Colin Powell were ignored in favor of people like (ack) Rumsfeld and (spit) Rice and (*vomit*) Cheney, until all you had left was a whirlpool of suck that only the end of a term could really save us from.

But every once in a while, W did a smart thing. Maybe it was him, maybe it was one of his advisers, maybe it was the foo-foo fairy - who can say? I suspect aliens.

One of those rare, possibly alien-inspired smart moments was when he appointed his predecessor, Bill Clinton, and his father, to lead the fund raising efforts for the horrifying tsunami of 2005. Not only did it turn a pair of very bitter rivals into allies - though not friends - but it put the effort above politics.

If it'd just been his father, it would have seemed like an in-house gig, laying down the administration's lines for mass consumption. If it'd just been Clinton, he might have gone off the reservation. But with them together, they checked each other's possible excesses and put the good at the head of the program, where it belonged.

So now it's karmic payback time. A horrible earthquake has struck Haiti, and, tapped to lead US fund raising efforts are Bill Clinton, once again, and, perhaps surprisingly, W.

Surprisingly? W has stayed out of the spotlights since the election - laying low and not popping up to defend his record when it's taken behind the tool shed for a well-deserved whipping. One wonders why he'd emerge now, unless he wanted to try and rehabilitate his sorry image.

(One also wonders why his father didn't come out this time, though, to be fair, he didn't handle the Thailand trip so well due to his advanced years. Maybe the horrors of what he found in Thailand hurt him badly. Maybe he wants to just be left alone.)

But the inclusion of W does a number of useful things for the overall mission, beyond any collateral boat-raising it might provide for W, himself.

For one thing, as with the Tsunami efforts, it puts the project above politics. Enough said on that point.

For another, it keeps both men on the reservation. This way Bill won't simply mouth administration-friendly pleasantries, and W won't (hopefully) foot in mouth it, as he is wont to do when given free air time and a microphone.

And for yet another, and possibly most important of all, it acts to defuse the criticisms of people like Rush Limbaugh, who have already taken the current administration to task for wanting to help.

(In Limbaugh world, one apparently watches our global neighbors suffer with a sardonic chuckle, possibly followed by a cocktail of hillbilly heroin. Thankfully, "the way things ought to be" is not often how they are.)

Is it working? W has already acted to rebuff claims that Obama is "politicizing" the crisis in order to up his approval numbers. While his delivery might be a stammered mess, as always, I think the statement itself is a useful tool in the arsenal against Limbaugh's hypocritical cynicism.

There are those who say, perhaps rightly, that W should be in prison, and not helping out with disaster relief, much less standing on the White House lawn. And maybe he should.

But until such time as enough proof of actual, criminal wrongdoing can be found to put him there, our former President remains another resource that Obama has to call on in the face of international concerns. And I think he's right to use him, if only to keep people like Limbaugh from derailing a good thing.

(the inevitable screw-ups and missteps are already doing that well enough, thank you.)

Don't look at it as rehabilitation of W's much-maligned image. Look at it as community service. Much like Boy George being forced to clean up the streets of New York, this is W's chance to actually get his hands dirty by helping others without the promise of direct and immediate political gain to himself.

Maybe he'll learn something. Maybe we all will.


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