Showing solidarity with suffering Asians, a swamped Bush cleans up debris
Even a disaster of Biblical proportions failed to rouse the bored-again George W. Bush from his Christmas vacation in Crawford, Texas.
The monumental Indian Ocean tsunami was the closest thing to the Genesis flood that we’ll probably ever see. Any other U.S. president, including Daddy Bush, would have immediately gone public with comforting words and a bucketful of money. This earth-shaking event, the most deadly tsunami in the planet’s recorded history, has left hundreds of millions of Asians—those who weren’t swept away—with mountains of debris to clean up and victims to mourn.
Our president spent yesterday clearing brush at his ranch, while making sure the U.S. was pitching in to help the unprecedented disaster’s victims.
So yesterday, we pledged $15 million. My colleague Jarrett Murphy immediately put that rather small largesse into perspective. Here’s some more context: Lloyd S. Blankfein, president and chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs, received a nearly $20 million bonus in 2003, the New York Times breathlessly reported in a totally unrelated story that I made fun of because it was totally unrelated to the real world.
But now I finally understand how our compassionate conservatism is only conservatively compassionate. The Bush regime’s Scrooge-like behavior prompted an outcry, and the U.S. chipped in $20 million more. And the Washington Post reported this morning that, even though there were “complaints that the vacationing President Bush has been insensitive to a humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions,” the president wasn’t ignoring the issue of debris:
Now that’s what I call homeland security—protecting your own territory from menacing tree limbs and branches. But the good news he brought to Asians was that the U.S. more than doubled its initial contribution of $15 million.
Here’s another frame of reference: In 2003, E. Stanley O’Neal, the CEO of Merrill Lynch, (and a record-setting fundraiser for Bush’s campaign), got a bonus of $13.5 million plus stock worth $11.2 million, as the Times calculated it.
If you’re keeping track, this is the running total:
• U.S. aid after tsunami: $35 million
• Bonuses paid in 2003 to corporate execs Blankfein and O’Neal: $44.7 million
Maybe Bush just blanks out when he’s down in Crawford. Rick Perlstein captured the president’s “divine calm” in a Voice story last May that began this memorable way:
Adding insult to injury, Bush later refused to make public that warning he had received more than a month before 9/11 and hadn’t taken seriously.
When Bush is in Crawford, nothing seems serious.