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Liberals are better in a crisis!

Posted by on Jan. 18, 2010 at 8:06 PM
  • 22 Replies

Liberals are better in a crisis!

There's a reason President Obama's response to catastrophe has been so much better than Bush's. It helps to believe in the power of government to aid lives.

Here's something you're not supposed to say: Barack Obama has responded to the earthquake in Haiti much better than George W. Bush responded to Hurricane Katrina or the Indian Ocean tsunami. Here's something you're really not supposed to say: He's responded better because he's a liberal. Liberals see responding to humanitarian disasters, including overseas, as a more fundamental responsibility of government than conservatives do. Don't take my word for it-listen to the nation's most influential conservative commentators themselves.

Liberals see helping those in agony-even in other lands-as a big part of what the American government is supposed to do.

The fact that Obama has responded better is obvious-pundits and politicians just aren't supposed to say so for fear of politicizing a tragedy. Within half an hour of learning of the Haitian earthquake, the White House released a statement. The president cleared his public schedule the following day, and received five briefings in 26 hours. The secretaries of State and Defense both cut short trips to Asia, and Obama and Hillary Clinton each named one of their closest aides (Dennis McDonough at the National Security Council, Cheryl Mills at State) to coordinate disaster relief. Hillary personally visited the island, and Vice President Joe Biden met Haitian-Americans in Miami. Within a day of the earthquake, a U.S. aircraft carrier was en route and Obama had announced $100 million in aid.

Compare that to the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina. Twelve hours before Katrina reached the U.S., Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff flew to Atlanta to attend a conference on bird flu, even though he and the president had already been warned that a major hurricane could breach New Orleans' levees. On Tuesday morning, August 30, a day after the hurricane hit, Bush flew to California to commemorate America's World War II victory over Japan; then returned to Crawford, Texas, to continue his vacation. On Wednesday, he flew over the devastated Gulf Coast, but didn't set foot there till Friday. Even Louisiana Republican Senator David Vitter gave the administration's response an F.

Similarly, it took a vacationing Bush three days to make a public statement about the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed a quarter of a million people. His administration's initial aid pledge was $15 million, which led the U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs to call the response of America and other Western countries "stingy." Stung by the criticism, Bush later increased U.S. aid, and oversaw a substantial humanitarian effort by the American military. But as with Katrina, his initial response was passive, if not downright negligent.

It's true that Obama has the benefit of hindsight. He knows that the inept response to Katrina damaged Bush's presidency (and that he himself was sharply criticized for taking too long to publicly discuss the Christmas bomb attack). But there's more to it than that. The discrepancy between Obama and Bush mirrors a broader discrepancy between liberals and conservatives. Last Wednesday-the first full day of earthquake coverage in the U.S. press-MSNBC's three signature evening shows (Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, and Chris Matthews) devoted a total of more than two hours to Haiti, according to the liberal group Media Matters. By contrast, Fox's three signature shows (Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck) devoted less than seven minutes. Noting that MSNBC (not to mention CNN) had sent some of its top anchors and reporters to the island, Rush Limbaugh actually boasted on his radio show that "I am... the top media figure not broadcasting from Haiti."

And it wasn't just that Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Hannity and Beck largely ignored the earthquake. They implicitly explained why they were ignoring it: because they didn't believe an aggressive Washington response would do any good. "The USA will once again pour millions into that country, much of which will be stolen," declared O'Reilly. "Once again we will do more than anyone else on the planet and a year from today Haiti will be just as bad as it is today." On his radio show, Beck argued against any non-military assistance from Washington. "We've poured millions into there," added Limbaugh, "and it's pouring it down a drain."

In fact, recent foreign aid to Haiti has been anything but money down a drain. Largely because of a highly successful U.N. peacekeeping effort, Haiti in 2008 held a peaceful democratic election. Five days before the earthquake hit, the country got its first international hotel franchise in a decade.

But O'Reilly and Limbaugh's comments are revealing less for what they say about Haiti than what they say about the American right. In their private lives, American conservatives are at least as charitable as their liberal counterparts. But when it comes to government to government charity-the kind that the Obama administration is practicing now-conservatives are far more skeptical. They tend to believe that there's little the American government can do to fix countries like Haiti, and that the harder Washington tries, the more it will neglect the real business of foreign policy: fighting America's enemies. In the 1990s, when the Clinton administration invested heavily in Haitian nation-building, Republicans accused it of practicing "foreign policy as social work." And it's significant that both Limbaugh and O'Reilly compared Obama's fast response to the Haitian earthquake to his slower response to the Christmas bombing-the implication being that Obama is so focused on helping the wretched of the earth that he can't protect America.

"This is what he lives for," Limbaugh jeered. "He lives for serving those in misery." In a sense, Limbaugh is right. Liberals like Obama have greater faith in government than do conservatives, and they're less nationalistic. As a result, they see helping those in agony-even in other lands-as a big part of what the American government is supposed to do. They also believe that if the American government does that work well, it will generate goodwill that makes America safer.

Most conservatives don't believe that, which helps explain why Bush responded more passively to Katrina and the tsunami than Obama has to the Haitian earthquake. As neocons like to say, ideas have consequences. And luckily for the ravaged people of Haiti, the ideas of Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh don't permeate 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue anymore.

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by on Jan. 18, 2010 at 8:06 PM
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Replies (1-10):
Malapertinent
by on Jan. 18, 2010 at 8:44 PM

...BAHhahahahaha...gross

Reminds me of the Stepford Wives...

mamadixon
by Gold Member on Jan. 18, 2010 at 8:54 PM

" foreign policy as social work"....yeah, I'll buy that.

cagnew80
by Bronze Member on Jan. 18, 2010 at 8:56 PM

The first thing I noticed was a contradiction. The article says that liberals believe that government should step in and help other governments or countries that are hurting. If that were true, liberals would have been supportive of staying in Iraq to help the country re-build- instead, liberals demanded that we leave. Yeah, they say we wren't helping and were only "occupying," but the facts show something different. We were- and are- helping that country.

The other thing I want to comment on is that I don't think Bush's slow response to Katrina had anything to do with his belief that government should stand back. Bush did A LOT to grow the government. As a conservative myself, I have a lot of problems with Bush's presidency. He was not a conservative. I don't know why he didn't step in faster with Katrina, but I don't think it had anything to do with thesis stated above. Perhaps he just wasn't prepared for such a disaster.

All that being said, I agree with Limbaugh. The American people are generous and caring, and they will help those in need. The government does not need to step in. Obama has commited millions of dollars to the Haiti efforts... and we have no money. This country is broke and our debt is growing rapidly. We don't have the money to give, and that should trump the question of whether or not it's our government place to give.

LauraKW
by "Dude!" on Jan. 18, 2010 at 11:26 PM

As the first 3 posters put a big exclamation point on the argument the article is trying to make...

tericared
by on Jan. 19, 2010 at 1:03 AM


Quoting LauraKW:

As the first 3 posters put a big exclamation point on the argument the article is trying to make...


yep...........you are so right,,,,

 

"And luckily for the ravaged people of Haiti, the ideas of Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh don't permeate 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue anymore".

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georgia362
by on Jan. 19, 2010 at 1:35 PM

confusedyou are joking right? you have to be if you think democrats are better in a crisis i am sitting here laughing so hard i can hardly stand it.that dumb article just made my day i am still laughing.ha ha ha stop it you guys i can't stand it you are cracking me up.

Mandipants
by on Jan. 19, 2010 at 2:00 PM


Quoting georgia362:

confusedyou are joking right? you have to be if you think democrats are better in a crisis i am sitting here laughing so hard i can hardly stand it.that dumb article just made my day i am still laughing.ha ha ha stop it you guys i can't stand it you are cracking me up.

Your response is cracking me up. I think I peed my pants.

lizzybugsmomma
by on Jan. 19, 2010 at 2:03 PM

ok.. that is a really broad,biased statement..  I don't agree at all with this article.

We as a nation are very charitable no matter what country is in need, and in a crisis, no matter who the president, the US is always one of the first to give not just money but manpower too. 

JenE4
by Silver Member on Jan. 19, 2010 at 2:06 PM

It makes sense. That's why we're characterized as "bleeding-heart liberals" because we care about our fellow man. Meanwhile (most) conservatives have a "what's mine is mine" attitude (re taxing and government-funded programs), and (some) conservatives go as far as to say helping those in need is socialism, etc.

Mandipants
by on Jan. 19, 2010 at 2:09 PM


Quoting JenE4:

It makes sense. That's why we're characterized as "bleeding-heart liberals" because we care about our fellow man. Meanwhile (most) conservatives have a "what's mine is mine" attitude (re taxing and government-funded programs), and (some) conservatives go as far as to say helping those in need is socialism, etc.

Yeah. That attitude is PREVELANT. Have you read some of the Haiti aid posts and conservatives in line to agree with Limbaugh sentiments...

I'm still shaking my head.

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