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President Bush, the stealth humanitarian
Scripps Howard News Service


January 09, 2007

Whether it's helping get the homeless into homes, fighting malaria and other diseases in Africa or spending on U.S. poverty programs, President Bush is breaking records - and getting no credit for it.

You might say he's a stealth humanitarian, someone whose heartlessness is constantly preached while his accomplishments are persistently ignored.

But then you stumble on the Bush ambition regarding chronic homelessness. He wants to end it, and the consequences of administration efforts to date are amazing - significant percentage drops in such cities as San Francisco, Philadelphia, Miami, Dallas, Denver and Portland, Ore.

The basic idea of the program being endlessly advocated by a Bush appointee, Philip Mangano, is for cities to combine federal, local and charitable funds to put the chronically homeless into their own apartments and assist them with social services instead of dealing with them piecemeal so they too often end up in jails, hospitals and other facilities. As various news accounts explain, you save money this way, but here's the real gold: You save lives.

Despite some critics - and they certainly exist - the evidence to date seems to be that these homeless Americans are conquering their addictions and other problems to an extent not previously experienced in those communities that have adopted this strategy and are implementing it through vigorously implemented 10-year plans.

Now, jump across the ocean to Africa, where Bush has increased developmental and humanitarian aid to $4 billion a year from the $1.4 billion allocated in 2001, and done it the right way. The wrong way is to hand money to dictators who then use it to buttress their oppressive powers. Bush has said through his Millennium Challenge Account program that you get aid if you govern justly, invest in your citizens and allow economic freedom.

He has been wise on this count, and on another score: understanding that trade counts for more than aid any day. "The value of trade is more than 10 times the value of foreign investment and foreign aid combined," he has said, and he has lived up to this talk by doubling U.S. trade with Africa over the past five years or so.

Where he particularly wins me over is in sending help to fight AIDS and malaria. In the case of this last dread disease that afflicts close to 400 million Africans a year and kills as many as 2 million - mainly children - it has taken something more than patty cake to face down the environmentalist fanatics opposed to the indoor spraying of DDT.

These extremists have been superstitiously, callously successful in opposing the use of DDT in Africa at the probable and ghastly cost of millions of lives, even when the best science instructs us that indoor spraying likely has no adverse health consequences for humans, no effect on wildlife and can often be the most effective technique available. These pathetic ideologues have issued their misleading words like so many terrorist assassins, and the world's politicians largely retreated for many years, but not Bush, whose approval of DDT when required already is saving precious lives in places such as Zanzibar.

But this Oval Office occupant isn't caring for large numbers of the poor at home, you maybe say. If you do, you are wrong.

My friend Deroy Murdock utilized research by the Heritage Foundation to note in columns that anti-poverty spending from 2001 to 2005 increased by 39 percent - well above inflation - so that the anti-poverty portion of the federal budget is now at a record high. Some programs were eliminated or reduced, as their inefficiency justified, but most are up in dollars received, and while neither my friend nor I are entirely approving of this strengthening of the welfare state, it is worth noting that the fiction of a mean, miserly Bush is just that, a fiction.

My point here is not that this man Bush is a hero on all issues or without political sin. My view is that he has many faults, some of them important, but that he is nowhere close to what leftist writers and his Democratic opponents portray him as being: a figure of demonic purposes and the compassion of a rock.

He is much larger than that, and better, finally, than many of those who are most vicious and divisive in attacks that are little less than idiotic. These enthusiasts of put-down are not all hypocritical frauds. Not all. But who among them has done a fraction of what Bush has to serve humanity?


Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado.
He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)

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