President Bush enlisted two former presidents for an ambitious private fund-raising drive for victims of the deadly tsunami on Monday, asking Americans to open their wallets to help the millions left homeless, hungry and injured.
"The devastation in the region defies comprehension," Bush said as he announced the campaign to be led by his father and Bill Clinton. "I ask every American to contribute as they are able to do so."
Bush, his wife, Laura, and his two predecessors paid brief sympathy visits to the embassies of the four nations hit hardest Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. The first lady brought bouquets of white roses, and the president wrote messages in embassy condolence books, offering prayers as well as promises of U.S. aid.
Meanwhile, the president was getting daily reports from a delegation he dispatched to the region to assess whether the United States government can do more. Speaking en route to Bangkok, Thailand, Secretary of State Colin Powell, leading the team with the president's brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, did not rule out more U.S. government money. But he said there was no immediate need to increase the $350 million commitment because the most urgent task was coordinating all the aid that was pouring in the vast majority still unspent.
World disasters in the past have meant significant political changes and economic changes, normally in the affected areas. Perhaps with the interconnectedness of the new millenium, the effects are even more far reaching now.