Sunday, February 20, 2005

Bush, Clinton make brief stop on Guam, tsunami relief efforts underway

It's great to see two presidents from opposite sides of the political spectrum come together for a worthy cause. It is possible to transcend party politics.

GUAM-Two former U.S. presidents touched down on Guam early yesterday morning for a brief refueling stop and a security briefing at Andersen Air Force Base.

With a cool breeze and the sun just beginning to rise, former Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush stepped off a 757 jet to the clicking of dozens of cameras.

Dozens of local, national and military media, including CBS, were awake at the crack of dawn to catch a glimpse of Clinton and Bush. However, no media opportunity for interviews was provided.

Relaxed and comfortable in a pair of blue jeans and Nike tennis shoes, Clinton casually strolled down the stairs, hands tucked in his pockets -- with the exception of the occasional hand wave to the anxiously awaiting press below.

Looking tired yet casually presidential from the long flight from Hawaii, Bush Sr. smiled and waved for the cameras before hurrying into the one of the vehicles in a motorcade of security, military dignitaries and Gov. Felix Camacho.

This was Clinton's second visit to Guam. Clinton first visited Guam in November 1998 and spoke to a crowd of an estimated 25,000 local residents during his four-hour trip.

Back then, Clinton discussed bills that extended federal and food aid to residents of the freely associated states, and also announced America's Coral Reef Task Force, which included then-Gov. Carl Gutierrez.

The two former presidents were on their way to Banda Aceh to attend the official turning over of relief efforts to the United Nations after almost two months of military command.

The two former presidents took on the responsibility of heading up American relief efforts for the tsunami and earthquake stricken region of Southeast Asia, at the request of the current President George W. Bush, shortly after the disasters claimed the lives of more than 160,000.

Together, Bush Sr. and Clinton took the helm of the relief effort process and encouraged the American public to make donations to assist in the region's recovery.

The Associated Press reports Clinton and Bush arrived in Indonesia and visited a Thai fishing village as they began their tour to promote reconstruction efforts. It is the first trip to the region by both men since current President Bush asked them to head up relief efforts.

"We hope to learn some more about what else we could" to help relief efforts, Clinton told several hundred people in Ban Nam Khem village, according to The Associated Press.

Natalie J. Quinata, Pacific Daily News


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