Clinton, Bush on Haiti Relief Fund

President George W. Bush and President Bill Clinton are interviewed by Bob Schieffer about relief efforts for Haiti's earthquake victims, at the White House, Jan. 16, 2010. face the nation
White House Photo
The following interview with President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush, discussing the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund, was conducted in the White House on January 16, 2010.

Schieffer: I think some people would be surprised to see you two sitting here together. But a very good source of mine told me, as a matter of fact, that you all often talked while you were president, Mr. Bush, and that you actually developed a very special relationship. Do you think of yourselves now as friends?

Bush: Yeah I do.

Clinton: Me too.

Schieffer: And did you talk often?

Bush: I don't know about often but I did, I called him. He didn't call me because he knows how busy a president is. I called him and we chatted on occasion.

Clinton: I was always pleased when he called me. I'd try, I make it a practice never to bother the president. I don't call President Obama either. I don't think it's, you know, they've got plenty to do. But I, we have developed a very honest, good friendship. And we've made our disagreements respectful and we've had a good time doing it.

Bush: My mother calls me my fourth brother - calls him my fourth brother.

Schieffer: Is that right?

Clinton: The black sheep of family.


Schieffer: Is this what we're seeing here today a culmination of the relationship that you developed during those years?

Bush: I don't think so. I think it really is two guys that want to help channel compassion in a proper direction and want to help the American people deal with the tragedy they've seen on their television screens down there in Haiti.

Clinton: The president asked us to help. The Haitians need our help. Americans want to help. And I think we were asked, first, because people know if they send funds through us - and that's mostly what they need now and will for the next couple of weeks - we'll see that it's honestly and correctly spent and effectively spent. And second, he wants us to stay at it over a longer period as I did with first President Bush in the tsunami because this is gonna be a long term process.

Complete Coverage: Devastation in Haiti

Schieffer: There's been an overwhelming outpouring of support by the American people for this, but not in every quarter. Rush Limbaugh said, for example, that President Obama might try to use this for political means to shore up support for himself in the black community. And he said we've already donated to Haiti - they call it the U.S. income tax. What's your response to that?

Clinton: Oh, I don't have any. You know, I think we should, it's not fruitful to get involved in that. The Haitian people are working, they're in desperate shape. And before they were in desperate shape, they were on the blade of building a modern society and I was honored to try to help them. I love the country, but I think every American has been heartbroken by what's happened. And I just think it doesn't do us any good to waste any time in what is in my opinion a fruitless and pointless conversation.

Schieffer: What would you say to that, Mr. President?

Bush: I'd say now's not the time to focus on politics. It's time to focus on helping people. I mean look, you've got people who are, children who've lost parents. People wondering where they're going to be able to drink water. There's a great sense of desperation. And so, my attention is on trying to help people deal with the desperation.

Schieffer: Wwhat do you…

Clinton: But I think let's take a serious point that Mr. Limbaugh was making - is that Americans pay for the government and the military's down there doing their part. But in a disaster of this magnitude there's no way that the government - which has other responsibilities as well, national security and other responsibilities - you just can't deal with this just with government money. I mean there are people they have no place to sleep. They have nothing to eat. They have no clean water. They have no access to medical supplies no matter how bad, how hurt they are, unless someone brings it in and stands it up. That's what the, that's what all these faith-based groups are doing down there - that's what all these other non-governmental groups are doing. And we think Americans know that and want to help. And what we want to do is to try to increase the help and also ensure that it goes to the right places.

Schieffer: How do you make sure that it gets there? What lessons do you take away from Katrina that you can apply here, Mr. President?

Bush: Well first of all, it's great compassion. People are going to want to help. You've just got to make sure help is channeled in the right direction. The immediate crisis is not going to be solved by the fund that we're setting up. The immediate crisis is going to be solved by the United States government along with other governments effectively dealing with the food shortage, the information shortage, the water shortage, you know, the security situation. We want to be around to help on the rebuilding aspects of this. And the, the lesson I've learned on all the crisis or catastrophes during my presidency was people want to help. And that's why when the president asked me to join with Bill to create a mechanism where they could help, I was happy to do so. And by the way, it happens to be at

Schieffer: Is there a structure in place, I would ask both of you, to ensure that this money gets to people? I mean, how can people be certain that this money is going to go to the people?

Clinton: Right now, it's interesting you say that because you know, because when the U.N. system broke down after, you know, because our headquarters was destroyed there and I was working for U.N., I set up an emergency fund on my Web site just to stand for them. Right now we know who's down there and who's good. We just, anybody who gives us money now we're going to flow it right through there. We know Dr. Paul Farmers' group. They've got medical people down there. You want to go to medical help, you can give it to them. CARE is on the ground. They're good. The UNICEF supplies are being delivered. They're reliable. So we don't have any real problems now. What we need now is quick paths through in the most effective ways.

Bush: Yeah, one of my concerns, Bob, is that during these crises all of a sudden all these kind of fake organizations pop up and well-meaning people are misled. And I know President Obama is concerned about that as well. So you know, we're a safe haven. And the other thing we're going to do is rely upon people who know what they're doing down in Haiti. They'll be Haiti-specific expertise that'll be helping advise how to spend this money.

Schieffer: Can we afford this? Because as you both say, it's gonna take more than charity. It's going to take the U.S. government and that's going to cost some money. Can we afford it?

Clinton: But it's not just us, Bob. I mean you've got people all over the world that are contributing to this and there will be governments all over the world. And I've already talked to a lot of these donor nations. And keep in mind they pledged a lot of money before this happened. We in the United States, as we always do, have given a higher percentage of what we pledged. So a lot of these countries have money set aside they can put in here. I think we can afford it and I don't think we can afford not to do it.

Schieffer: Mr. President, Mr. President, thank you very much.