THE political and ideological exploitation of perhaps the worst natural disaster in all our lifetimes is almost beyond belief — were it not for the fact that nothing these days is beyond belief.
Even as tears spring into the most hard-hearted person's eyes at both the unimaginable scope of the tragedy and at the wrenching individual stories of loss, opinion leaders just can't help themselves.
They are using this cataclysm as little more than cheap debate fodder about the nature and character of the United States, its president and its citizens.
It is fine and proper to have a debate and discussion about the degree of generosity the United States could, should and must show in the wake of this literally earth-shaking event.
But at this moment, the United States is not the issue.
The foreign-aid budget of the United States is not the issue.
Our government should not be the focal point of the discussion right now.
Don't we owe the dead, dying and injured the minimal grace not to convert their suffering into a chat-show segment — the latest left-right clash over the Bush presidency?
And couldn't the editorialists at The New York Times have forborne — even just for a week — making use of the tsunami to complain about U.S. government spending on "development aid"?
Development aid is the blanket term for American grant money handed out to other countries, supposedly to help their economies grow. Development aid has nothing — nothing — to do with what has happened.
The aid at issue now is disaster relief.
Secretary of State Colin Powell found himself in the position of having to remind the world that over the past four years the United States has provided more such aid than all other nations on the planet combined.