The Candidates React to Burma Cyclone
By Garance Franke-Ruta and Juliet Eilperin
As the toll of dead or missing in Burma soared to 60,000 in the wake of Cyclone Nargis's slamming into the South Asian state over the weekend, the candidates for president issued statements on the tragedy.
"My heart goes out to the people of Burma who have lost loved ones or otherwise been tragically affected by the cyclone that devastated Burma this past weekend," Sen. Barack Obama said in a statement this morning. "I support the Administration's plan to deploy a disaster assistance response team to Burma to assess the needs of Burma's people, and I urge the Burmese government to allow our team access. ... Although the regime in Burma is one whose repressive rule deserves our condemnation, I also strongly believe that humanitarian assistance should not be used as a political tool against those in need."
Sen. Hillary Clinton had expressed similar sentiments yesterday. "My heart goes out to the victims of this horrible natural disaster and I hope the United States and the international community will respond to the needs of the Burmese people, who have suffered so much over the years," she said in a statement, which went on to note the role her husband and former president George H.W. Bush played in helping to mobilize support in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami in Thailand. "I call on the Burmese regime to put aside politics and allow the international community to aid the people of Burma. ... This disaster is a tremendous human tragedy and humanitarian challenge, but it also presents an opportunity for Burma to engage with the rest of the world and come together to save lives."
Though his campaign has not issued a statement, over the past two days Sen. John McCain has repeatedly brought up the Burmese government's response to the cyclone as a illustration of how the authoritarian regime has ignored the needs of its people.
"It's not astonishing that the government of that country did not inform the people that cyclone was going to hit," he told reporters aboard his Straight Talk Express on Tuesday afternoon. "It does highlight the fact that they live under one of the most excessive and repressive regimes in the world."
During a talk before the Charlotte, N.C., Chamber of Commerce on Monday afternoon, McCain said that while Americans are willing to aid the Burmese people in light of the recent natural disaster, "we also need to put more pressure on this illegal, corrupt government in Burma to make them change."
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