January 18, 2010

Haiti is a political minefield, actually.

Rush Limbaugh is catching a lot of political flack for making comments about the Obama White House using the Haiti crisis as yet another crisis they don't want to let go to waste. Critics argue that this is a humanitarian crisis. It is. But as with everything, wanted or not, other considerations inevitably creep in.

First and foremost, this is indeed a humanitarian crisis. Today reports are saying 50,000 dead so far. Help is badly needed, and help is being sent and co-ordinated, sent and will continue to be sent. Not just from the U.S., but from around the world.

Secondly, the White House most assuredly realizes that people want to help and would want to donate. Setting up a donation via whitehouse.gov is probably a well-intentioned idea. But it isn't necessarily needed. Could the government not direct people to donate to The America Red Cross, which has a history of helping with disaster relief, and day to day relief in poorer nations? There is no way that idea could be accused of being politically motivated. It's not like the White House hadn't heard of The Red Cross. Michelle Obama is on the front page of their website, soliciting relief funds.

In that context, Rush's arguments, while political, are really nothing more than quibbling over details of how to support the relief effort. Media Matters, who obviously had a problem with Rush's comments, let enough of the Rush clip play to, from their line of thinking, hang himself. But the clip serves to indicate his concern is for how aid is being collected and sent. It's an argument over details, not a call to boycott helping Haitians. But his comments are political - so is the response to it. The length of the clip serves to point out that Rush is not being the stereotypical heartless conservative, he's questioning the White House's methodology.

Relief aside, every decision has political connotations. Hugo Chavez is accusing the U.S. of using the crisis to occupy Haiti. No matter what you do, even if it's humanitarian, someone will see it as political, so it becomes political.

It's the same argument that people who criticized President Bush for his disorganization on Hurricane Katrina relief made. You can't have it both ways President Obama supporters.

And questioning the methodology of the effort is not a bad thing. In fact it's the American way to question authority.  Make no mistake - any aid to earthquake relief is a good thing. But the most efficient way to get it there is the best way to do it.

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