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Clinton-Bush fundraising team says donations safe with them

The duo, put together by President Obama, say contributions to help the devastated country will be used wisely. In multiple interviews, they talk about short- and long-term goals.

January 17, 2010|By Mark Silva

Reporting from Washington — The bipartisan team of former Presidents Clinton and Bush, recruited by President Obama to spearhead private fundraising for the relief of Haitian earthquake victims, promised today to ensure that the money they were raising would be well-spent in a nation now reeling in chaos.

The two former presidents made their appeals in a full round of five Sunday-morning news shows.

One of their aims was to make sure money donated was well spent, they said in interviews taped Saturday following their public appearance at the White House with Obama.

"We can assure them there will transparency and the money will be accounted for and then, more importantly, spent on programs that will be effective on the ground," Bush said on "Fox News Sunday."

"We were asked, first, because people know that if they send funds through us, we'll see that it is effectively spent," Clinton said on CBS News' "Face the Nation."

"The fundamental question for the country is, 'Do we care?' " Bush said on ABC News' "This Week." The answer is yes, he said, and part of the reason is the establishment of a stable democracy in Haiti.

"They want to build a modern country," Clinton said on ABC.

"Both of us have been through crises," Bush said during the former presidents' appearance on NBC News' "Meet the Press." Inevitably, he said, media attention will shift to other parts of the world.

"Our job is to remind people that there is still an ongoing need," Bush said. "That's part of the purpose of the fund, to say to the American people that rebuilding is a long-term project."

Several days after an earthquake that claimed at least 50,000 lives, with estimates of fatalities exceeding 100,000, directors of the relief effort say teams still are focused on finding trapped victims.

"This is still an active rescue mission," said Rajiv Shah, director of USAID, in an interview today on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Bush will not be going to Haiti any time soon, he said, but Clinton, the special United Nations envoy to Haiti, may do so.

"I may go in a few days because of my U.N. job," Clinton said on Fox. "But if I do, I'm going to try to stay out of the way. . . . I agree with President Bush that we don't need more people down there now unless they are literally delivering, providing food, water, shelter, medicine, medical care. It's chaos."

Bush, in their appearance on CNN's "State of the Union," was asked how they will define success in the Haitian relief effort.

"For me, success is helping save lives in the short term, and then we can worry about the long term after the situation has been stabilized," Bush said.

"But I think it's a legitimate question. You know, do we want to put money into a society that hasn't benefited after we've stabilized?" he said. "And the answer is, I think we do, just so long as we work with the government to develop a strategy that makes sense. To say the country can't succeed is too defeatist as far as I'm concerned."

Bush, voiced his concern about "shysters" who try to take advantage of crises -- as he put it on "Meet the Press." On CNN, he said of the drive that he and Clinton were leading: "We're a safe haven."

Clinton was asked on "Meet the Press" why rebuilding Haiti mattered.

"No. 1, it has the highest AIDS rate in the Caribbean," Clinton said. "No. 2, it's the poorest country in the Caribbean, and it's holding the whole region back. . . . No. 3, they actually have shown a willingness to change. . . .

"If they could succeed where they have failed for 200 years, that will change our idea of what is possible not only here but in Africa and Southeast Asia and everywhere else," Clinton said. "That's worth it all over the world."

Each was asked how they have responded personally.

"I've been watching TV from Dallas, Texas, and I feel sick to my stomach," Bush said in the Fox interview. "I feel it's really emotional. And that's the way it is for a lot of Americans. And therefore a lot of Americans are going to want to help. And our job is to make sure their help is not squandered, that it is spent properly."

"I've been almost equally moved just by what we've all seen on television," Clinton said on Fox. "And I'm just grateful that we're in a position to help, you know, because I think every American who has watched this, and probably every citizen in the world has watched this, said, gosh, I wish I could do something."

Bush, who made the support of faith-based initiatives part of his White House agenda, spoke to the work of missionaries in Haiti.

"A lot of people hear the call to love a neighbor like they'd like to be loved themselves," he said on Fox. "My own church, Highland Park United Methodist Church, had a group of church members in an eye clinic. They fortunately came out, sadly one person died.

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