Obama enlists Bush, Clinton to help Haiti
President Barack Obama pledged $100 million for Haiti quake relief on Thursday and enlisted two former U.S. presidents to help raise more, vowing to the Haitian people: "You will not be forsaken.", Reuters reported.
Determined to stay on top of the rapidly unfolding humanitarian crisis in the quake zone, Obama told his top aides that responding to the tragedy should be their top priority.
Obama, facing his biggest test of international relief since taking office a year ago, promised an initial U.S. contribution of $100 million and said he had directed his administration to launch "a swift, coordinated and aggressive effort to save lives and support recovery in Haiti."
The White House announced late on Thursday that National Security Staff chief of staff Denis McDonough would travel to Haiti along with a public affairs official from the Pentagon to help coordinate communication efforts on the ground.
Obama enlisted the help of former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat who is already a U.N. special envoy for Haiti, and former President George W. Bush, the Republican who preceded Obama in the White House.
They agreed to a request from Obama to lead private-sector fundraising efforts, issuing a joint statement expressing deep sadness at the devastation and suffering in Haiti.
"In the days and weeks ahead, we will draw attention to the many ways American citizens and businesses can help meet the urgent needs of the Haitian people," Bush and Clinton said.
Their effort will be similar to that performed by Clinton and Bush's father, former President George H.W. Bush, when they led an international relief effort to help the recovery from the 2004 tsunami that swept South Asia and killed 226,000 in 13 countries.
George W. Bush has kept a low profile since leaving the White House a year ago, working on a book about his time in office and developing his presidential library in Dallas.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs dismissed a question as to why Obama would turn to Bush after criticizing him for the U.S. response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, saying bipartisan unity was needed.
Aid was beginning to arrive in Haiti, shattered by Tuesday's quake. The Haitian Red Cross said it believed 45,000 to 50,000 people had died and 3 million more were hurt or left homeless.