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Former Presidents Pleased With Response to Pleas for Aid

Former Presidents Pleased With Response to Pleas for Aid

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(AP) Former President George H. W. Bush said Tuesday the initial response to pleas for private donations for the victims of the South Asian tsunami "has been wonderful" and he and former President Bill Clinton said they are eager to press for more.

"We have no goal" in terms of money, Bush said. "We think this is a long-term effort. There is no dollar figure set, but I can tell you this: Private funds have been pouring in. I'm very, very pleased to be a part of this with President Clinton."

President Bush, whom critics accused of initially responding too slowly to the disaster, named his father and Clinton Monday to head the private relief effort and the pair of former presidents planned a busy schedule of public appearances to push the cause. Bush already has offered $350 million in U.S. government aid.

"I think it's going to happen," the first President Bush said of the private fund-raising effort on CBS's "The Early Show."

"As soon as I got back to my office yesterday, the phones were lighting up," he said. "So, it will come from all quarters, and it should. Americans are very generous and they care a lot."

On CBS, Clinton was asked if the U.S. aid effort would have the benefit of improving this country's image in the Muslim world.

"Well it is," he said, "if we just do the right thing -- give us a chance to reaffirm our common humanity, to reach across religious and political divides."

"All we have to do is the right thing and get the help where it is needed," Clinton said. "We can do a lot of good, no matter what our means are, if we all work together on this."

Bush noted that "there's a lot of distribution problems in areas ravaged by the disaster" but also said that "our job is to raise the money."

Said Clinton: "No matter what we give for long-term development, there will be a need for the next four to six months for substantial private contributions. ... Needs are changing every day."

The former presidents urged Americans to visit the Web site,, that has been set up to direct people to various reputable charities where they can contribute money.

"It's important to get as much cash, even small contributions, as we can because there's a backlog in delivering the physical merchandise to people," Clinton said on ABC's "Good Morning America." "Right now if we can put the money in the hands of people on the ground, then they can spend it as needed."

Bush said, "The generosity and the heartbeat of the American people is such that we're going to get this job done."

Bush and Clinton -- who defeated Bush's 1993 re-election bid -- acknowledged that they were a political odd couple.

"Yes, we're political rivals," Bush said, "but in a national, international crisis, we come together as individuals and as a country."

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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