You would think Laura Bush, being given the podium at the White House Press Room to appeal for help for hundreds of thousands of victims of Friday's killer cyclone that struck Myanmar, would have known better than to mindlessly repeat the toothless US policy positions on a government we disapprove of.
Most of us in the relief business have strong views pro or con about the governments of countries whose people we help. But when disaster strikes, a bad or ineffective local government is an obstacle to be danced around not bludgeoned to death thus guaranteeing it will not allow the entry of urgent humanitarian aid for its people.
Laura Bush read the administration's long-standing talking points on Myanmar while simultaneously demanding that its government accept a team of US disaster officials to make an independent assessment of its needs. That the International Red Cross, the United Nations, the European Union and a number of highly competent relief agencies were already on the ground doing exactly that did not seem to matter. Giving Laura a mike and a little halo seemingly was the intent, especially with George W. Bush's popularity hovering at 27% in the polls.
The Burmese constitutional referendum set for Saturday, the still-under-house-arrest democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, the generalized brutality of the military junta -- all were targeted by The First Lady while giving lip service to making a provisional offer of US assistance to storm victims.
Whether it's a hurricane or a cyclone, somehow one Bush or another flies too far above the clouds to feel the pain.
Richard Walden is President and CEO of Operation USA, www.opusa.org, a 29 year old international relief group based in Los Angeles.
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