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Former presidents to the rescue

Published:Sunday | January 17, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Former President Bill Clinton listens to former President George W. Bush speak yesterday, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. President Barack Obama asked Bush and Clinton to help with US relief efforts after the earthquake in Haiti.


President Barack Obama said yesterday that America "stands united" with the Haitian people as he thanked two former presidents for agreeing to help raise billions of dollars to help rebuild the country after this week's devastating earthquake.

Obama met in the Oval Office with former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to discuss the fund-raising effort.

"By coming together in this way, these two leaders send an unmistakable message to the people of Haiti and to the people of the world," Obama said in the Rose Garden, standing between Bush and Clinton. "In these difficult hours, America stands united. We stand united with the people of Haiti, who have shown such incredible resilience, and we will help them to recover and to rebuild."


Bush and Bill Clinton have created a website,, to begin collecting donations. Both men said Saturday that anyone who wants to donate should know that their money will be spent wisely.

Bush said the best way for people to help in Haiti is by sending money.

"I know a lot of people want to send blankets or water. Just send your cash," said Bush, who made his first visit to the Oval Office since leaving the White House in January 2009.

Clinton, who also is the United Nations' special envoy to Haiti, reminisced about being in Haitian hotels that collapsed during Tuesday's earthquake and eating meals with people who were killed in the disaster.

remarkable place

"It is still one of the most remarkable, unique places I have ever been," he said.

In Miami, Vice-President Joe Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano met with Haitian-American leaders before their scheduled stop at an air base where relief supplies are being flown to Haiti. South Florida has the largest Haitian-American population in the US.

"This is personal," Biden said, touching the arm of White House political director Patrick Gaspard, who accompanied the vice-president. Gaspard is Haitian-American and still has family in the Caribbean country.