By JULIE PACE
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama has tapped former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to lead private sector fundraising efforts for Haiti.
Enlisting ex-presidents' help in responding to a natural disaster is just what Bush did in 2004 after a tsunami ripped across Asia. Back then, it was Clinton and former President George H.W. Bush who assisted in relief efforts.
In a joint statement, George W. Bush and Clinton said, "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."
"Americans have a long history of showing compassion and generosity in the wake of tragedy," they said. "We thank the American people for rallying to help our neighbors in the Caribbean in their hour of suffering - and throughout the journey of rebuilding their nation.
White House political director Patrick Gaspard said officials have been inundated with requests from Americans looking to help. The administration has launched a wide-ranging outreach campaign, particularly in areas with a large Haitian-American population, to coordinate those efforts.
With the full extent of the devastation still unknown, Gaspard said cash is the most urgent need. A text-messaging campaign with the Red Cross had raised $5 million dollars as of Thursday evening. A $10 donation can be made by texting "HAITI" to "90999."
Gaspard, a Haitian-American, said the impoverished island nation will require long-term humanitarian assistance.
"There is going to be a need to sustain this effort over time," he said.
Obama cited the success of the tsunami relief efforts in his decision to mobilize the former presidents, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. The president placed calls to both Bush and Clinton Wednesday.
Gibbs said the Obama administration's criticism of Bush's actions during the response to Hurricane Katrina were irrelevant.
"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,"' Gibbs said. "The actions that were taken to deal with the humanitarian crisis from the tsunami, on the other hand, I think worked quite well." ---
On the Net:
Bush Haiti Web site: www.georgewbushcenter.com/haiti
Clinton Haiti Web site: www.clintonfoundation.org/haitiearthquake