Bush deserves creditGeorge Bush as president was a brutal war-monger who cared not a whit about the poor, it’s said by some, and you wonder what they are going to do with a fact that shines so large and bright that to ignore it is to admit their own ugly bias.
By: Jay Ambrose, The Dickinson Press
George Bush as president was a brutal war-monger who cared not a whit about the poor, it’s said by some, and you wonder what they are going to do with a fact that shines so large and bright that to ignore it is to admit their own ugly bias.
It is simply this — that Bush did more humanitarian good for the world’s poorest, most diseased people than any of his predecessors as much as dreamed of. The instruments were, first off, the Global Fund, an international group fighting AIDS, malaria and TB that he helped start, and then the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief that does its work in Africa, where people absolutely cheer him loudly. Here’s the lowdown on why. It has saved millions of lives.
Look around, and you can find a few critics who quarrel with this, that or the other aspect of this achievement, but not Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, two Democrats who praise it, and certainly not Jay Lefkowitz, who worked with Bush as a policy adviser on the project. He has written that Bush’s efforts reveal the character of a man “who doggedly pursued his vision through a minefield of conflicting interests, despite the absence of any tangible political benefit to himself or his party, and at the risk of a costly break with one of his core constituencies.”
While the Global Fund is primarily funded by the United States and is important, it is the second program that has most made a difference, and figuring it out and getting it to where it needed to go was no easy thing, Lefkowitz tells us.
Anti-AIDS drugs are hugely expensive, and the issue was to get them to millions of people. So there were budget worries. Administering the program had endless complications, and Bush wanted to find ways to measure its success. Some Republicans objected to participation by doctors who performed abortions, but that would mean a failure to reach many victims. Democrats were unhappy with provisions to advocate sexual abstinence, even though experience in Uganda showed the technique worked. John Kerry wanted his own program, and viewed the president’s ideas as a political affront.
Through all of this, it seems, Bush remained constant to his goals, and we thus get to the good news of how billions of dollars of increased spending have led to antiretroviral treatment for two million people when six or so years back it was just 50,000 who were getting it. Lefkowitz notes that 13 million pregnant women have received help so that they won’t transmit HIV to their babies. Many tens of millions more have been reached one way or the other, through counseling, care and preventive measures, such as the distribution of condoms.
The story isn’t over with that information, though, because there is also the news about the anti-malaria programs — the incidence of this killer disease has been cut in half in 15 countries — and because the administration has also promoted trade and economic assistance in Africa as ways of improving overall living conditions.
Bush deserves enormous credit here, no matter how people assess other aspects of his administration, because this is not just some blip in history, some minor thing, but a massive, extraordinary outreach for which there are relatively few comparisons. The people deriding him might ask themselves how many lives they saved today.
— Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas and Denver,
is a columnist living in Colorado.