March 25, 2010

It's a classy move on the part of the former president. While greeting Haiti citizens as part of the Clinton Bush Initiative for Haiti relief, watch carefully as GWB shakes hands with a Haitian and then wipes his hand off on Bill Clinton's shoulder. I guess that's better than turning around for a squirt of hand sanitizer by a waiting assistant. Maybe. Sort of.

By the way, along those lines, Bill Clinton did something astounding the other day: he apologized for the economic policies he pursued during his tenure as president that he admitted had devastated the Haitian economy.

Decades of inexpensive imports - especially rice from the U.S. - punctuated with abundant aid in various crises have destroyed local agriculture and left impoverished countries such as Haiti unable to feed themselves.

While those policies have been criticized for years in aid worker circles, world leaders focused on fixing Haiti are admitting for the first time that loosening trade barriers has only exacerbated hunger in Haiti and elsewhere.

They're led by former U.S. President Bill Clinton - now U.N. special envoy to Haiti - who publicly apologized this month for championing policies that destroyed Haiti's rice production. Clinton in the mid-1990s encouraged the impoverished country to dramatically cut tariffs on imported U.S. rice.

"It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake," Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 10. "I had to live everyday with the consequences of the loss of capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people because of what I did; nobody else."

Wow. What an amazing admission. The sad thing was that it was buried within a story on WaPo published Saturday far from the front page.

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