By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Haiti is not the 51st state

In my latest for the Guardian, I take on pundits like Howard Fineman, who are trying to make the ludicrous case that Haiti is President Obama’s Katrina.

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  1. Harrybosch

    Hard to argue with any of it, though I do believe our own reprehensible history with Haiti (including a 37-year occupation and multiple invasions) might give us a special obligation to do more than we would have anyway.

  2. Why would you would waste virtual ink — and your time — on these bottom feeders? To even recognize their existence is to empower them.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Art: To quote a great line from “Doonesbury” back when it was funny: I get paid.

  3. LFNeilson

    WTF — it’s about 55 hours since the quake. There are no higher priorities than search, rescue and relief. What’s all this political b.s.? Help these people, please!!

  4. Al

    George Bush was too busy vacationing and raising money for Republicans to be bothered with the Katrina disaster. It was only after he and his administration were put on the spot by the wall to wall media coverage of the human disaster taking place in New Orleans, that he stirred. It can arguably be said that his performance in that disaster is what stripped the armor off his presidency and exposed him to the attacks that crippled his political effectiveness for the rest of his time in office.

    President Obama, on the other hand, immediately set out to address the country on the tragedy taking place in Haiti, and mobilized the government to provide humanitarian aid the the country.

    Howard Fineman is one of those who will always look for an opportunity to demean those whose political positions he opposes. It doesn’t help his credibility that all the proof of the falseness of his claims is part of the well recorded and publicized record.

  5. CAvard

    Great piece Dan! Just FB’ed it.

  6. Michael Pahre

    I didn’t read Fineman’s post as being nearly as extreme as you seem to have taken it. That Fineman draws some parallels is not journalistic “malpractice” — though I agree with you that he would be guilty of it were Fineman to have constructed any sort of strict equivalence.

    I chalk Fineman’s post up to sloppy, haphazard, and shotgun writing that goes for a shallow parallel between past and present. But far from malpractice.

    To launch into the parallels myself: Obama (with Haiti) has already surpassed Bush (with Katrina) in one big way. We probably all agree that the U.S. had a legal obligation for rescue and recovery in New Orleans, and does not have anywhere close to the same legal obligation in Haiti.

    But Obama has already claimed the high ground by going beyond legal responsibility: he said that we have a moral obligation to do everything we can to help the people of Haiti. Many Americans thought we also had that moral obligation to the poor of New Orleans after Katrina; Bush and his administration, however, never quite seemed to see it in the same way.

    It’s sad that Bush was unable to see the morality at the root of the issue. Even my seven-year-old daughter gets it: she already emptied her piggy-bank and tooth fairy loot to help the needy in Haiti.

  7. Treg

    Here’s a twist: President Obama has asked Bill Clinton to help run the relief effort. But meanwhile, our completely lame Democratic nominee for US Senate needs help winning the seat that should have been, would have a been a sure bet for a Democrat to win, if she had any idea what she was doing.

    So what kind of comments do you think the right-wingers are already preparing about Clinton and Obama coming to Massachusetts this weekend to campaign for Coakley, when they would presumably otherwise be occupied with saving lives in Haiti?

  8. lkcape

    I guess, Treg, that we will see on Wednesday morning.

    It is also interesting that you are taking the opportunity to turn this human tragedy into a political statement.

    What does that say about your positions?

  9. Mike F

    I think Fineman’s piece is just another example of how a large chunk of our national media must define everything as Democrats versus Republicans. They aren’t two separate stories, instead it’s framed as the Republicans had their turn now the Democrats have their turn. Everything is political wins and losses to people like Fineman, anything else is just background.

  10. Dunwich

    “Maybe it was out of a sense of cosmic justice that Obama named Bush to assist”
    I really wish Obama hadn’t done that. Let W. keep doing what he’s doing.

    Tonight I was watching ABC and they chose to lead with reporter Dan Harris prompting stunned Haitians. He was trying to get them to say there may be violence if conditions didn’t improve soon. It wasn’t working, but Harris kept trying.

  11. Peter Porcupine

    Mr. Dunwich – I believe it is George H.W. Bush who will be working with Clinton, a reprise of their Tsunami tour, as it were.

    And a fine example of setting snark and bitterness aside for the public/human good. Bill Clinton is exceptional among Democrats in that way.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Peter Porcupine: No, it’s George W. Bush. Totally aside from the merits, I think it’s smart politics, since it pulls Bush slightly into Obama’s orbit and away from the increasingly unhinged Dick Cheney. In that sense, it’s very good for Bush, too. Bush will not be in a position to do any harm, and maybe he can shake down the Pioneers for some dough.

  12. Tom G

    Although Al Quada tends to seek failed states in which to operate the Dan Kennedy model of national security has US foreign policy in Haiti discount that potential, and ignore the effect of crippling poverty, homelessness, lack of safe drinking water supply and severely damaged emergency health care system in this small country hundreds of miles from our shore.

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