America and Americans: Beautiful.
Just about everybody knows now about the epic, unspeakably horrific Sumatra tsunami that killed perhaps 200,000 on Dec. 26 and left up to 5 million homeless in 12 South Asian countries.
And many have heard the complaints - particularly early on - about America the parsimonious, the stingy, the chintzy, the niggardly, the miserly, the cheap. They heard as well the slam at President Bush, who is said by unredeemable cynics to have remained too long at his Texas ranch instead of hastening to his principal workplace a la Germany's marvelous, sensitive Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
(The complaint recalls the fault-finding after 9/11, when the president was ripped as unconcerned and disconnected for finishing a story he was reading to Florida kindergartners before re-boarding Air Force One for Washington.)
Leading the charge against American generosity were, among others: the United Nations' Jan Egeland: "It is beyond me why (the U.S.) is so stingy, really." France's Jacques Chirac: "Washington is deliberately circumventing the United Nations and wants to compete with the international organization." Vermont's Sen. Patrick Leahy, disparaging an early administration commitment of $35 million in tsunami aid: "We spend $35 million before breakfast every day in Iraq."
Let's get real.
Former President Clinton has dismissed the latest dump on the insufficiency of President Bush individually and America generally as "a bum rap"; the incumbent president's father has termed it "a bunch of malarkey." The president himself finds America "a very generous, kindhearted nation." All are right.
At this writing, the U.S. has pledged $350 million in tsunami humanitarian aid; that number does not include - as such accountings never do - U.S. military spending (currently running about $25 million per week and consisting of 21 ships, 13,000 personnel, 14 cargo planes and more than 90 helicopters). Nor does it include - as such accountings never do - private (individual and corporate) commitments rolling in at a clip of about half-a-million dollars per hour.
Here's what The Wall Street Journal said in a Dec. 31 editorial:
Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.
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