Blankley distorted Democratic criticisms of initial U.S. tsunami aid efforts

In his weekly syndicated column, Washington Times editorial page editor Tony Blankley claimed that Democrats had criticized Republicans for “the mere billion dollars and the 7th Fleet rescue mission” dispatched following the tsunami in South Asia. But Blankley has a short memory: the Bush administration faced criticism following Bush's initial pledges, the first one of which was $15 million. Further, those who criticized these early offers included United Nations officials, former diplomats, foreign policy experts and several editorial pages across the nation, not simply “Democrats.”

On December 27, the Bush administration announced its pledge of $15 million to the relief effort, then raised this amount to $35 million on December 28. Finally, the administration announced on December 31 that U.S. tsunami aid would be increased to $350 million.

Bush faced criticism for his initial commitment:

  • Morton Abramowitz, former U.S. ambassador to Turkey under President George H.W. Bush: “My initial reaction is that it does not seem to be very aggressive” [The Washington Post, 12/28/04].
  • Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations: “When that many human beings die -- at the hands of terrorists or nature -- you've got to show that this matters to you, that you care” [The Washington Post, 12/28/04].
  • A New York Times editorial referred to the $15 million aid offering as “measly” and the subsequent $35 million pledge as “a miserly drop in the bucket” [12/30/04].
  • A Minneapolis Star-Tribune editorial described the initial $15 million offering as “paltry” [12/30/04].
  • A Baltimore Sun editorial referred to the $15 million pledge as the President's “initial tightwad commitment” [12/30/04].
  • A Greensboro News & Record editorial: “Stung by criticism for being stingy, the Bush administration now says it will contribute $35 million for relief. That's still a drop in the bucket. Is that the America we want the world to see? Shame on the Bush administration” [12/31/04].

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) stated his disappointment with the “initial pledge” and recognized the subsequent increase in aid on January 4:

Frankly, I was disappointed by the President's initial pledge of $15 million for the victims of this disaster -- less than half of what he is spending on his inaugural ceremonies this month. Equally disappointing was the fact the President waited several days before publicly addressing this terrible disaster. [...] Since then, we have increased our commitment, and the United States has provided aircraft, ships and helicopters to help deliver food, water and clothing to those who need it. The response of the American people, and of our government, is important for many reasons.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) responded to the White House's later pledge by saying on January 3: "[T]hank heavens the administration finally saw the light."

From Blankley's May 11 column:

Winter got off to a bad start when the tidal waves killed hundreds of thousands of Asians and, more to the political point, swept away the aura of good feelings following the Republicans' triumphant November election results. That gave Democrats a chance to feel good about themselves again by beating up on “American stinginess,” while Republicans had to apologize for the mere billion dollars and the 7th Fleet rescue mission we dispatched.