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Obama Enlists Bush, Clinton to Help Haiti

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Kent Klein

Former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are joining with President Barack Obama to aid the earthquake-stricken people of Haiti. The two former presidents returned to the White House to discuss what they and the American people can do to help.  

President Obama says the Haitian earthquake relief effort will not be measured in days or weeks, but in months and even years. 

Mr. Obama stood between his two predecessors Saturday and said they have answered his call to coordinate efforts to involve more Americans in helping Haiti recover and rebuild.

"Presidents Bush and Clinton will help the American people to do their part, because responding to a disaster must be the work of all of us.  Indeed, those wrenching scenes of devastation remind us not only of our common humanity, but also of our common responsibilities," he said.

The president says by coming together, Mr. Bush, a Republican, and Mr. Clinton, a Democrat, send an unmistakable message that the U.S. stands united with the people of Haiti.

"As the scope of the destruction became apparent, I spoke to each of these gentlemen, and they each asked the same simple question, 'How can I help?'.  In the days ahead they will be asking everyone what they can do," he said.

Mr. Bush says the main thing Americans can do is to send money, rather than other forms of assistance.  The two former presidents have started the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, which is accepting donations online.  Mr. Bush promised that he and Mr. Clinton will see that the money is spent wisely.

"We have all seen that, first hand, when Americans responded to the tsunami or to Katrina, or the earthquake in Pakistan.  And President Clinton and I are going to work to tap that same spirit of giving to help our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean," he said.

Mr. Clinton says this cause has great personal meaning for him.  He is the United Nations special envoy to Haiti.  And as president in 1994, he sent U.S. troops there to restore democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who had been ousted in a military coup. 

"I was in those hotels that collapsed.  I had meals with people who are dead.  The cathedral church that Hillary and I sat in 34 years ago is a total rubble.  But what these men have said is true.  It is still one of the most remarkable, unique places I have ever been.  And they can escape their history and build a better future if we do our part," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Clinton's wife, Secretary of State  Hillary Clinton, arrived in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, Saturday.  After meeting with Haiti's president, Rene Preval, she offered the administration's support to the Haitian people.

"As President Obama has said, we will be here today, tomorrow and for the time ahead," she said.

Massive relief efforts from the U.S., other countries and the United Nations are arriving in Haiti.  But distribution is being slowed by congestion at the Port-au-Prince airport, rubble-filled streets and security problems.

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