December 31, 2004

DAVID PHILLIPS: Countdown with Keith Olbermann

I normally don't put any post on the last day of a month. But this is an exception as I would like to share with my friends round the world this transcript of 'Countdown with Keith Olbermann', Keith Olbermann talking with Mr. David Phillips.

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Dec. 29
Read the transcript to the 8 p.m. ET show

OLBERMANN: One of the complications about setting a figure for emergency U.S. relief now is that the $35 million figure is all that was appropriated to the U.S. Agency for International Development. Asked about his agency‘s budget, the director said, quote “We have just spent it.” Americans have always stepped up but what about America? To help us assess whether we as a nation are indeed doing enough, I‘m joined by David Phillips on the Council on Foreign Relations. Until last year a State Department advisor on the Near East and the past senior advisor to UN on the coordination of humanitarian affairs. Mr. Phillips, thanks for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: Is it a yes or no question? Can we say whether or not we‘re doing enough?

PHILLIPS: It‘s pretty clear that $15 million on day one was a pathetic display by the United States. We needed to set the bar high so that other countries could also be generous. By being dragged to the relief table, we sent the wrong signal. People are dying in these affected populations. And many of those populations are Muslim. If we want to win the hearts and minds of the Muslim world, we‘re just going to have to do better.

OLBERMANN: And doing better, if tomorrow we came out and said we‘ll take the daily cost of the war in Iraq, $193 million a day, according to the pentagon, we‘ll send that as direct aid or a week‘s worth of that or whatever, would it make a difference in terms of the perception? Did we already damaged ourselves to say nothing of damaging the recovery efforts by coming out with those initial figures? Or is there still time to be kind of crass about it, still come out and buy goodwill throughout the region?

PHILLIPS: In material terms, those donations will make a significant difference. But we lost the mantle of moral leadership. What the president should have done, is he should have stepped in front of the TV cameras as the first world leader to organize a coalition. He should have laid out a three-point plan, the first phase dealing with the immediate emergency. The second phase dealing with the health implications. The third phase focusing on reconstruction. Because he was the last world leader to address the crisis, it looks as though the United States had little interest in addressing what happened with the tsunami. And particularly, it looks as though we had little interest because of the affected populations were in the third world and were mostly Muslim.

OLBERMANN: About what the UN official, Mr. Egeland said about stinginess yesterday, do you really think there was cause and effect in terms of the additional $20 million coming out? Would this country really have given just $15 or $35 million if he had not made those remarks?

PHILLIPS: This was going to be a rolling start. So I am sure the United States would have stepped up and given more. But I know Mr. Egeland well. Instead of criticizing his remarks, he should be commended. If the Bush administration hadn‘t been shamed by its actions as a result of the UN statement, it‘s not clear when the president would have stepped in front of the TV cameras, made a statement and offered more resources. It‘s important that the international community come together right now. The president talked about prevailing in this moment of need. If that is going to happen, the U.S. has to provide leadership. We didn‘t do that during the critical first couple days.

OLBERMANN: David Phillips with the Council on Foreign Relations, formerly an advisor on the Near East to the current State Department and on humanitarian affairs to the UN, thanks greatly for your time tonight, sir.

PHILLIPS: Thank you, Keith.

December 31, 2004 in Columnists, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack