December 29, 2004 | Broadcast

American Morning

My thanks to both of you fellows for being with us this morning. And, Vic, let me begin with you. U.S. aid increased by something like $20 million. Is the United States being – is the United States reacting quick enough and being generous enough? VICTOR KAMBER, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: Well, when I see stories like the one that preceded with Dr. Fine and AmeriCares, you know that the heart of America is there, and there will be hundreds, if not thousands, of volunteers and corporate America, trade union America, all sort of Americans that will pour out their hearts and participate.

I am disappointed that our president – I’m sure his heart is in the right place, but he hasn’t stepped forward in a more public way to show his sympathy. And again, this is not political. I don’t want to be critical here.

SANCHEZ: Well, I should mention to you the…

KAMBER: And that’s his style. That’s his style.

SANCHEZ: I should mention to you – we should just mention to the audience that he’s going to be doing so in the next couple of hours. The president’s going to be making an appearance to talk about just that. What are you saying, it’s not soon enough, that he should have been out there a couple days ago?

KAMBER: I think it’s – yes. I mean I think, when you see a tragedy of this sort, it is not soon enough. I mean we are the strongest, the most powerful, the wealthiest nation in the world, and I would have liked our leader to step forward at the earliest moment to express his sympathy and throw his support.

Having said that again, I do believe America’s heart will be open and generous to help the rest of the world.

SANCHEZ: And when you say America, you are not referring to the administration?

KAMBER: I’m referring to the totality of America, hopefully the administration, as well as corporate America.

SANCHEZ: Cliff, over to you.

CLIFFORD MAY, FORMER RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIR.: Rick, what we had yesterday was a U.N. employee saying or implying that the United States is stingy. I know he’s taken it back, but that’s because he has got a lot of heat. I think a lot of us are just sort of tired of this sort of reflexive slander of the United States, of Americans and America being the whipping boy.

Not only do we give the most aid on an absolute basis, but the fact is that Americans’ giving is not just through government and is not just through the U.N. Your last report showed it, a private charity to which people give.

I’ve been at disasters I’ve covered over the past, and there’s World Vision, there’s Catholic Relief Services, there’s a whole slew of church organizations and private philanthropies. And through these organizations, Americans give.

Just because they don’t give all their money to the United Nations’ bureaucrats – and, by the way, the U.N. deserves some criticism here. They could have been putting up an early warning system in the Indian Ocean for things like this. They have money to do such things as check the snow pack in the alpine ski resorts. Where was the U.N. all this time? Could they not foresee something like this? What in the world are they doing other than holding press conferences and insulting Americans.

SANCHEZ: Vic, back over to you with criticism of the United Nations.

KAMBER: You know, this is not the time. I’m sorry with Cliff to be criticizing and making political shots. The U.N. diplomat that made the statement took it back. He was talking about generosity of western countries as a whole and how it has slipped over the last number of years. I think there’s no dispute about that.

Cliff’s right; there are lots of generous Americans out there, in terms of non-government agencies. I believe the American government should have stepped forward sooner than it did. The president should have stepped forward sooner, and I would hope our pockets are open much bigger than they have been.

SANCHEZ: Yes, Cliff, how about that, the fact that the United States, as we know, has been criticized because of Iraq throughout the world? Internationally, we’ve been maligned somewhat. Should the United States be looking for this as an opportunity to really show our benevolence?

MAY: No, I don’t think we should be do this as a public relations gambit. I think what we should be doing is what we are doing. Americans, like the doctor in your previous report, are coming back from their vacations and they are doing whatever they can to help people in need. And we know there are just an incredible number of people in need. In certain ways, these kinds of natural catastrophes alert us to a sort of sense of perspective that we may not have in normal times.

But, again, I don’t think we should do it because we want the people in France or Belgium to like us better. We should do it because we want to help the people of Asia who are in very desperate need right now, and I think that is what is happening. And I haven’t seen any slipping of American philanthropic or charitable spirit over recent years – on the contrary.

SANCHEZ: Cliff May, Vic Kamber, we thank you both for being with us this morning.

KAMBER: Thank you, Rick.

MAY: Thank you, Rick.