By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 15, 2010; 9:21 AM
Former president Bill Clinton, who has partnered with former president George W. Bush to lead the country's long-term humanitarian and recovery efforts in Haiti, is urging Americans to donate money to relief groups to help bring aid to the devastated Caribbean nation.
"You've seen the pictures," Clinton said in an interview late Thursday with The Washington Post. "The streets are full of the wounded, the orphaned and the dead. It's a devastating, devastating thing."
Clinton, who also serves as the United Nations special envoy to Haiti, blitzed the network morning shows on Friday from his home in Chappaqua, N.Y., saying he and Bush are committed to helping earthquake-ravaged Haiti "build back better."
President Obama has tapped his two immediate predecessors to head the recovery, a partnership similar to one that Clinton and former president George H. W. Bush formed following the 2004 Asian tsunami.
Clinton and the younger Bush will help raise money in the United States, from their supporters and ordinary citizens alike, and funnel funds toward the most constructive rebuilding programs. They will be responsible for private-sector fundraising, which will supplement the $100 million in federal aid Obama announced Thursday. Clinton and Bush also plan to keep a spotlight on Haiti's recovery over the months and years to come.
"Once we get through this, the worst phase, and find the living and find the dead and try to preserve them so that their families can bury them, which is really important -- then we can start cleaning up the place and resume this development program," Clinton said in the interview, referencing projects that were launched before the earthquake by his charitable foundation and other groups in Haiti.
Since the quake occurred Tuesday, Clinton said he has been in regular contact with Obama and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon -- as well as his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. On Thursday, he and Paul Farmer, deputy U.N. envoy to Haiti, convened a long-scheduled meeting in Clinton's Harlem office of about 50 philanthropists, financiers and leaders of non-governmental organizations interested in the long-term development of Haiti.
"These people, they deserve their chance to build a modern life," Clinton said. "And I think they can do it."
Clinton has been active in Haiti throughout his post-presidency, visiting several times and launching development programs there through the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative.
For Bush, leading the Haiti recovery promises to be his most public role since leaving office one year ago. On Thursday, he and Clinton issued a joint statement saying they are "deeply saddened by the devastation and suffering" and that the "people of Haiti are in our prayers."
"In the days and weeks ahead, we will draw attention to the many ways American citizens and businesses can help meet the urgent needs of the Haitian people," the statement said. "Americans have a long history of showing compassion and generosity in the wake of tragedy. We thank the American people for rallying to help our neighbors in the Caribbean in their hour of suffering -- and throughout the journey of rebuilding their nation."