Former President Bill Clinton was advised not to speak with the BBC about the tsunami tragedy by several staffers, according to one knowledgeable source. Clinton was told to coordinate with the White House and the Bush Administration, but chose not to.
“He just went and did his own thing,” says a former staffer. “There haven’t been many times when he has wanted to make a public appearance like this, but given the world attention and the criticism of Bush, he couldn’t help himself. Classic Clinton.”
The Bush Administration has been taking a public relations pummeling from the press for perceived lack of attention to the tragedy that has taken more than 100,000 lives. The Administration’s initial $15 million aid package was bumped up by $20 million on Tuesday, after both Germany and France pledged similar amounts. According to the Clinton staffer, both German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac have attempted to speak to the ex-President in the past 72 hours.
“Their aid packages were pledged after they saw the immediate response from the United States,” says a Bush administration State Department source. “They never asked us about coordinating. They saw what we committed and one-upped us.”
As for Clinton, he has at his disposal — or at least with a phone call to friends, such as Microsoft’s Bill Gates — access to more than $75 million in private funds intended for philanthropic use. But Clinton’s charities have thus far not pledged a cent to aid those suffering due to the cataclysmic flooding, nor has he attempted to coordinate any private giving for the victims of the tsunami.
TOUGH SLEDDING AHEAD
The White House is steeling itself for a bruising confirmation battle in the Senate Judiciary Committee over the nomination of Attorney General designate Alberto Gonzales.
A month ago, White House legislative affairs and transition staff were predicting a choppy set of hearings, with some dust-ups for the current White House Counsel. But as time has elapsed, there is growing concern that with new revelations of prisoner abuses in Iraq and in military holding facilities elsewhere, and with Democrats in the Senate looking to score points with the public, the Gonzales hearings may be rougher than initially thought.
The nominee has been keeping a low profile, prepping for the hearings almost constantly over the past six weeks, though doing so from his offices at the White House. Gonzales was thought to be one of the easier confirmation hearings by the Bush administration, but now they are putting the Gonzales hearings on a par with those of Secretary of State designate Condoleezza Rice.