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9767: Washington Times Editorial on Haiti (fwd)
Washington Times, November 23, 2001
To aid or not to aid?
President Bush's approval rating hovers between 84 percent and 87
percent, and, depending on which poll you follow, a majority of Democrats –
57 percent, according to a recent Gallup poll – say he is doing a
better-than-expected job. That is a stark contrast to a Zogby poll in May,
which put Mr. Bush's approval rating at 55 percent.
None of the statistics, however, is surprising. After all, this is a
president who talked the talk during the presidential campaign. Then,
afterward, he put policies and legislation where his mouth once was. He
immediately jumped onto issues important to Americans (including education
and social service programs) and coalesced with special constituencies
(including the Congressional Black Caucus and black ministers). Now,
commanding the first war of this millennium, Mr. Bush is being measured quite
favorably week in and week out by the very folks who voted against him.
Interestingly, though, with most of the national news rightfully focused
on the war on terrorism, it's easy to forget that there is far more to the
world than the United States, Central Asia and the Middle East.
Consider homelessness and humanitarian aid. On Tuesday, Mr. Bush
announced more than $1 billion in federal grants to support emergency and
transitional housing programs, as well as other housing entitlements. On
Monday, he spoke about the U.S. government's humanitarian aid efforts in
Central Asia, where, with considerable U.S. support, the U.N. World Food
Program has increased its daily rations from 200 metric tons to 2,400 tons,
and where, as winter approaches, blankets, shelters and other necessities are
being donated. All told, the United States has given more than $1 billion in
aid to Afghanistan since 1979.
Haiti — where U.S. interests are to promote democracy, stifle drug
trafficking and reduce illegal immigrants from reaching America's shores —
should be as fortunate. Indeed, about 150 Haitians died in recent days after
capsizing off the coast of Florida, and about 400 others were returned to
Haiti. Such en masse life-or-death undertakings didn't make headlines in
recent months because Haiti was headed in the right direction.
The Inter-American Development Bank (IAD), again with considerable U.S.
support, had agreed to loan Haiti's Aristide government $146 million for
public works, education and health care projects. One public works project,
for example, would be for much-needed potable water — and with one in 10
Haitians infected with HIV/AIDS, clean and safe water is extremely important.
All those projects, to the same end, would create jobs for the people who
live in the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.
Haiti's check was in the mail until earlier this year, when the Clinton
administration busied itself with last-minute presidential pardons, goodies
for environmental causes and other farewell gifts (and washed its hands of
Haiti after that costly and embarrassing military debacle). For more than one
reason — including Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill's shortsightedness and the
absence of a strong Western Hemisphere diplomat in the State Department — I
don't think Haiti is even on Mr. Bush's radar screen — not yet anyway.
But the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is making noises. In a Nov. 8
letter to Mr. Bush, the 38-member caucus requested a meeting with him to
discuss the IAD loans and U.S.-Haiti policy.
I hope the CBC doesn't drop the ball on this, because it is one of the
few concerns the caucus has wholeheartedly rallied behind in many years that
Likewise, I hope Mr. Bush and the caucus do have a tete a tete. Indeed,
if 57 percent of Democrats agree with how he's handling his presidential
chores, and with mid-terms around the corner, there might be more to this
Haiti matter than initially meets the eye.
Deborah Simmons is deputy editorial page editor for The Washington Times. Her
column appears on Fridays.