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Obama faces leadership test on Haiti


The world is focused on sending aid to Haiti, but compassion has a political edge and for President Obama, comparisons to how the Bush administration handled the Hurricane Katrina disaster will be inevitable.

The Bush administration faced political consequences for its Katrina response, and, despite its best efforts, images of poor, mainly African American people clinging to rooftops hurt it. Black leaders called the weak response to their constituencies another example of embedded racism. The relief effort became a symbol of bureaucratic bungling that clung to an administration whose leader was painted by Democrats as a bumbler in domestic and international affairs.

So far, Republicans, particularly in Congress, have been supportive of relief efforts for Haiti, a separate country with a long and complicated relationship with the United States. But in two appearances, Obama has been clear that helping the poor in Haiti is a moral burden on the United States that he intends to meet.

Obama this morning minced no words in explaining how he would respond to Tuesday’s earthquake, which may have killed tens of thousands and destroyed much of what little of value existed in Haiti. As he did....

...on Wednesday, the president seized the mantle of leading international rescue efforts.

“This is one of those moments that calls out for American leadership,” Obama said. “For the sake of our citizens who are in Haiti, for the sake of the Haitian people who have suffered so much, and for the sake of our common humanity, we stand in solidarity with our neighbors to the south, knowing that but for the grace of God, there we go.”

Obama pledged his administration would place Haitian relief at the forefront, saying $100 million will be set aside for immediate needs and more later for rebuilding.

After urging Americans to help, Obama directed his remarks to Haitians:

“Few in the world have endured the hardships that you have known. Long before this tragedy, daily life itself was often a bitter struggle. And after suffering so much for so long, to face this new horror must cause some to look up and ask, 'Have we somehow been forsaken?'

“To the people of Haiti, we say clearly, and with conviction, you will not be forsaken; you will not be forgotten. In this, your hour of greatest need, America stands with you. The world stands with you. We know that you are a strong and resilient people. You have endured a history of slavery and struggle, of natural disaster and recovery. And through it all, your spirit has been unbroken and your faith has been unwavering. So today, you must know that help is arriving -- much, much more help is on the way.”

-- Michael Muskal 

Haiti photos
Photo gallery: Earthquake hits Haiti | Twitter: Reports from Haiti | Resources: How to help

Photo: Obama, accompanied by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, makes a statement about the earthquake in Haiti, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010, at the White House in Washington. Credit: AP Photo / Charles Dharapak

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Additionally, Obama pledged total transparency, no pork barrel spending or lobbiests in his administration, bring the troops home immediately from Iraq, close down Gitmo immediately, bi-partisan participation in all legislation, fiscal responsibility, no unemployment over 8 %, creation of 3 million new jobs, yada yada yada. not hold your breath for Barry to care about your welbeing....that will be the AMERICAN PEOPLE and private charities....they will be there for you...Obama will just wear out the Military transport capability, but he HAS NOT FUNCTIONING OPERATIONS people that have a CLUE about managing a disaster.....look at this first year in disaster...and still a disaster.

Haiti looks today like what the USA will look like when Barry Sotero Hussein Obama gets finally tossed out of office. Do not think that being Black in Haiti will get any special treatment from the US Mulatto-in-Chief.

Haiti is not part of the United States. To compare it in any way to Katrina is ludicrous.

Americans are still wealthy enough to give money to Haiti relief!
If Obama keeps on his"spread the wealth" polices, Americans will no longer be economically capable of giving to Haiti or any other country of people group who are in need. We will become Haiti!!!!!

Does anyone realize that Haiti is not a part of the USA so it doesn't compare to Katrina at all? Regan helped out people all over the globe and still managed to deal with American floods, hurricanes, and hostages - all while having a growing problem with Alzheimer. Bush was worthless as a president.

Obama working on anything with Haiti, but ... ignoring the 90,000 homeless in L.A. much less Louisianan people that would like to come home, but can't because New Orleans and the lower parrishes are still a mess. Hmmm...

Obama’s not doing much better in my book. If anything, he should go and clean up the botched job that Bush didn't do. Now that would be a true test of leadership!

On the other hand, if Obama requested the instituted a law that says if a company is going to close an entire plant, they have to register with the city and county in which they operate their plant, file for Chapter 11 and work with local governments before they destroy an entire city and county economy - like several plant owners did in the Phoenix Area. That would be some kind of leadership.

Fixing leftover problems from Bushes presidency - WHILE giving Haiti 100 million dollars would be a TRUE test of leadership this country has come to depend on.

Because being the president of our country is ALWAYs about juggling the domestic and the international issues. Did he mention any of that going to our city that just had a 6.5? Hmmm…

I’m sorry, I'm not impressed with his leadership.

Naturally, we should help Hati, but it's time AMERICAN Presidents stop over-looking America.

You can compare anything and it's an easy answer. With this, we're there and on it unlike the other situation. Even his father, the other President, remarks weren't impressed by his son's performance. I remember watching the interview. Still this is not about that. With this we demonstrated a quick and earnst response to a horrific situation; and we don't do it everyday. What is happening is who we are right now. Our President is projecting reassurance and committment, encouragement and humanity. There is nothing wrong with that. But also, our people, with other countries, are there assisting and making it happen.

Quote:Obama pledged his administration would place Haitian relief at the forefront, saying $100 million will be set aside for immediate needs and more later for rebuilding.

How about taking that $100 mil that you think we have and send it to the American people that have lost their jobs and still losing jobs, that are going to be homeless and that are homeless.

What a moron. Spread the wealth to the US not too other countries that never help us in disasters.

Fine to help Haiti but do it by whatever contributions come in for it and not be taking it from us that have to foot these bills your dumb arse keeps making.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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