ABC News’ Yunji de Nies reports:
President Barack Obama is enlisting the help of former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to help organize the relief effort Haiti. Mr. Obama spoke with Mr. Bush last night, and the former president agreed to help in an organizing role, much like those he created for his father and former president Clinton after the 2004 Tsunami and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.
“The President believed that the partnership that President George W. Bush created between his dad and former President Clinton was obviously a highly effective way of ensuring that after this phase of the operation, the search-and-rescue phase of this operation, after that concludes, obviously there is still going to be a tremendous need, and there will probably be a tremendous need for many, many months to come, that that's the best vehicle and the most effective vehicle for setting that up,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said.
Mr. Obama’s choice may strike some as curious, given his prolific criticism of Mr. Bush’s handling of the response to Hurricane Katrina. On the 2008 campaign trail, Mr. Obama often cited Bush’s “Brownie Moment” as an example of what he would not do if elected.
“If catastrophe comes, the American people must be able to call on a competent government. When I am President, the days of dysfunction and cronyism in Washington will be over. No more Brownie. No more heads of the Arabian horse assn – in FEMA,” Mr. Obama told a crowd in New Orleans in February of 2008, “Across this city, we see the evidence that George Bush’s promises were empty.”
A month later in Billings, MO, candidate Obama said, “When we hand over Katrina contracts to more of George Bush’s FEMA friends, it doesn’t just violate the American people’s trust, it takes away the tax dollars they’ve earned and the valuable services they need. It’s wrong, and when I am President, it will end.”
On September 11th of that year, Mr. Obama declared that Washington was broken.
“The loss of a civic culture in Washington among public service has led to not only well-known disasters, like the mismanagement of the Katrina situation, but quiet disasters, where you've got entire agencies that have been hollowed out and you've got political appointees who aren't concerned with the mission of those organizations,” he said.
When asked why the President now believes Mr. Bush is the right person to help manage relief for Haiti, Gibbs responded, “I guess the answer would probably be contained in why Bill Clinton worked with the guy he beat to come to the White House.”
“I think if you asked George Bush whether the government acted up to its ability in responding to Katrina, I think the answer to that would be no. The actions that were taken to deal with the humanitarian crisis from the tsunami, on the other hand, I think worked quite well,” Gibbs said, “Look, if everything -- if I -- if everything I criticized precluded me from ever doing something with them on an issue that we agreed on, we'd all be walking around as 300 million people unable to communicate or deal with anybody else.”