Stephanopoulos, apparently locked in an involuntary flashback to the Clintonian politics of ostentatious compassion, said, "You mention Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation in the world. How important is it for the United States to take this opportunity, if it hasn't been missed, to prove to the Muslim world that we are on their side?"
Along these lines, an obviously distraught Andrea Mitchell, guest hosting for "Hardball's" Chris Matthews, told correspondent David Shuster, "This was an opportunity to communicate caring and compassion to a largely Muslim constituency." Shuster concurred, noting that the "big argument today" on the blogosphere "has been the degree to which the United States cares, compared to other countries, when the human misery does not involve Americans."
Also on "Hardball," John Kerry historian Doug Brinkley said, "I think it can be an opportunity for this administration to show that they really do have a caring about the world."
Examples of such criticism are endless, but you get the point. I think, though, that we do ourselves a disservice to dignify these criticisms with a detailed rebuttal, beyond saying that the United States has been the most compassionate and generous nation, both publicly and privately, in the history of the world, and will continue to be. Further, one is entitled to question whether people are truly motivated by compassion when they feel the need to conspicuously parade their philanthropy like an obscene badge of self-congratulatory honor.
I suppose reasonable people can haggle over the comparative benevolence of helping to democratize and rebuild a nation such as Iraq and funneling relief monies to disaster victims.
But the fact that we are forced by leftist critics to dwell on such distracting issues is telling. Why should President Bush and Secretary Powell be pressured to spend their valuable time -- part of which they could be spending on this very tragedy -- justifying their decency and proving the altruism of this nation?
Is the Left so shackled by its own bitterness that it is compelled to dedicate more of its energy to finding fault with President Bush and the United States than in furtherance of the constructive causes for which it mouths support?
If there is any shame to be assigned in this episode, it does not belong to President Bush, Secretary Powell or the United States of America.