Catastrophe to Celebration

Not everything is the Bush White House's fault.

Not everything.

In this case, not fully their fault, but this contrast is too striking to go without comment.

Laura Bush on Cyclone Nagris and ...

Last week, the White House sent Laura Bush out to speak on the disastrous cyclone in Myanmar. She gave a prepared statement. And, then she took questions. And, the press had their chance to ask questions. Some were quite serious, quite on target.

But, toward the end the questions strayed to issues closer to Laura's heart and the tone shifted from serious to jocular.

MSNBC, however, took a little time to pick up the shift of subject as you can see here at Huffington Post. One side of the screen, disaster scenes from Myanmar/Burma, the other a laughing Laura chatting about Jenna's then upcoming wedding.

Sigh ...

Transitioning from Cyclone to Wedding?

It isn't as if the White House press office has the ability to control questions. No, this White House never does anything to control the discussion in the press conferences. Never ...

Or, that Laura could have suggested something from the podium along these lines: "Why don't we focus our attention on the tragic situation in Myanmar?" No, the person at the podium has no ability to control the conversation, to keep the discussion on subject. It isn't as if Laura had years of time as a Governor's wife and some time under her belt as First Lady. Dominating a press conference is simply not something that might be expected of her.

No, of course, that would have been impossible.

Actually, in fact, Laura's opening comments invited the questioning.

Thank you all very much for giving me a chance to speak. I'm going to leave tomorrow for Crawford, for Jenna's wedding, and I wanted to be able to make a statement about Burma before I left.

Burma, Jenna's wedding.

Jenna's wedding, Burma.

What a perfect fit.

It wasn't the media that opened the door.

And, thus, a press conference that opened with a serious (even if seriously flawed, see below) statement on a catastrophe with 10,000s of dead ended with laughing chatter and joking about Jenna Bush's wedding.

And, back to that flawed statement
Now, Laura has been criticized (for example
,
,
, and ...) for words in the prepared statement due to the hypocrisy of these words coming from the Administration that handled Hurricane Katrina so flawlessly.

It's troubling that many of the Burmese people learned of this impending disaster only when foreign outlets -- such as Radio Free Asia and Voice of America -- sounded the alarm. Although they were aware of the threat, Burma's state-run media failed to issue a timely warning to citizens in the storm's path.

Yes, this is troubling and tragic.

But the hubris. Are there other governments, perhaps a little closer to home, that failed to act appropriately in the face of a serious weather threat?

The response to the cyclone is just the most recent example of the junta's failure to meet its people's basic needs.

Think September 2005 with the words: "The response to the [hurricane] is just the most recent example of the [Administration's] failure to meet its people's basic needs." Would that have sounded legitimate?

The regime has dismantled systems of agriculture, education and health care.

Has America's "systems of agriculture, education and health care" strengthened in the past seven years? FYI -- not by any reasonable set of metrics ...

In her questions and answers, Laura Bush stated this:

But I think in front of their own people and in front of the world, if they don't accept aid from the United States and from all the rest of the international community that wants to help the people of Burma, that that is just another way that the military regime looks so cut off and so unaware of what the real needs of their people are.

Does anyone want to remind her that the U.S. government was quite slow in accepting aid from the international community post Katrina and that there were many aid offers that were never accepted? Perhaps it might have merited notice that 59 of 77 offers of aid went unaccepted and, in many cases, even unanswered.

Of course, the White House "press corps" left her comments and the stark contrast with the Bush-Cheney Administration's record unchallenged.

And, traditional (entertainment) media reporting seen by most Americans similarly left this unremarked.

Truth be told, there are many things that Laura said that I agree with about the Myanmar regime's obstinence in the face of massive human tragedy and suffering, but the hubris of someone from this White House criticizing another nation's response to a hurricane/cyclone ...

And, the indelicate (tasteless ... heartless ...) transition from speaking of such a deadly tragedy to the laughing and giggling over a wedding ...

Another stain on America's image?

NOTE: Cyclone Nagris has killed 10,000s (perhaps more that 100,000) and devastated a large swath of the country. There are many ways to provide assistance, such as through Relief Web or through the Burmese labor unions.

And, there are many causes and drivers to this disaster. From nature to humanity. For example, the devastation of Burma's / Myanmar's mangrove groves over the years enable the cyclone to cause far more devastation than if this natural protective belt had remained intact.

And, let us remember that the Burmese/Myanmar government is the ones standing in the way of serious amounts of international aid arriving to help their endangered citizens. It seems that to call their actions (and inaction) crimes against humanity would not exaggerate the case.