The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Friday, December 31, 2004  

Crankiness Runs in the Family

New York Post columnist John Podhoretz, known around these parts as Podhoretz the Lesser, is all a-crank because everybody’s picking on President Four-Day Delay.

In today’s paper Podhoretz offers a few doodlings about the Sumatra earthquake and tsunami (“It’s About the Tragedy -- Not More Bush-Bashing”):

[A]t this moment, the United States is not the issue.

The foreign-aid budget of the United States is not the issue.

Our government should not be the focal point of the discussion right now.

These paragraphs include the beginnings of thoughts that, if expanded by a larger mind, might be defensible, but then Podhoretz goes haywire:

Don’t we owe the dead, dying[,] and injured the minimal grace not to convert their suffering into a chat-show segment -- the latest left-right clash over the Bush presidency?

The “left-right clash” to which the Lesser refers consists, of course, in the left exploiting “this cataclysm as little more than cheap debate fodder about the nature and character of the United States, its president and its citizens.” And a Bush supporter cannot honestly whine about “the clash” when the president sends his little brother on such a critical mission.

From there it’s just a quick step into righteous indignation and ignorance:

Development aid is the blanket term for American grant money handed out to other countries, supposedly to help their economies grow. Development aid has nothing -- nothing -- to do with what has happened.

The aid at issue now is disaster relief.

These statements are so patently and astonishingly untrue it’s difficult to imagine how it made its way into print. Oh, wait, we’re talking about the Post.

Granted, the earthquake and subsequent tsunami did not result from development aid or the paucity thereof, but the extent of the destruction has everything to do with the region’s underdeveloped status. To cite only a few factors: Flimsy housing, large segments of the population crowded in squalid conditions in low-lying coastal areas, primitive livelihoods so easily shattered, inadequate infrastructure, and, apparently, no warning system.

“Disaster relief” barely begins to describe the efforts ahead in the most-affected countries. Before long the focus will have moved on to disease prevention and containment (at best), and after that to reconstruction of the devastated areas.

Reconstruction. That sounds an awful lot like development to me. To Podhoretz I’m sure it sounds like fighting words.

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