Thursday, December 30, 2004

“What they’re actually doing is using dead people to make cheap points.” That’s how the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan described some partisans’ use of this week’s deadly Indian Ocean tsunami to promote various and sundry political agendas. We think it about describes the exploitation of the tragedy by the United Nations’ Jan Egeland with his “stingy” remark and the New York Times’ criticism of the United States.

It being Christmastime, most world leaders were on vacation when the tsunami hit. Kofi Annan was just arriving back in New York late Wednesday. By Thursday morning he still hadn’t met with U.N. humanitarian relief point man Jan Egeland —the man in charge of tsunami relief. President Bush was in Crawford, Texas, until yesterday. British Prime Minister Tony Blair was vacationing in Egypt. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was away, too. That’s to be expected. World leaders should be judged by the job they do — not by how fast they can turn to a camera.

But that didn’t much matter to the New York Times, where selective outrage is the rule. In an editorial entitled “Are We Stingy? Yes,” the Times singled out President Bush for a gratuitous snarl. “President Bush finally roused himself yesterday from his vacation in Crawford, Tex., to telephone his sympathy to the leaders of India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia, and to speak publicly about the devastation of Sunday’s tsunamis in Asia,” the piece read.

We’d like to ask the Times writers: Where was the outrage over the other vacationers? It’s an absurdity to criticize these others over it, but by the Times’ logic, one should. Mr. Annan’s absence should be especially offensive to the New York Times, since in principle he is in charge of the entire relief operation. But it wasn’t. The reason: that’s not a means to bludgeon the president. So the Times avoided it.

The truth is, the New York Times and Mr. Egeland are political opportunists of the highest order. They gleefully seized upon tragedy to promote a political agenda. They’re not alone: Global-warming theorists, debt-relief enthusiasts and others have been doing the same. It’s a disservice to the truth and a shameful commentary on their attitude towards the dead.

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