A small group of us had an interesting meeting this afternoon at the Pentagon with Defense secretary Bob Gates (unfortunately the most interesting parts were off the record; Steve Hayes will write up the other, still somewhat interesting, parts when we get a transcript). Then I came back to the office, depressingly heard that Secretary Clinton (still) had nothing substantive to say about Libya, then was told even more depressingly that the president was still mum too.

I repeat: Pathetic.

Then it got worse. This White House announcement arrived in my e-mail in box at 4:36:54 p.m.:


Office of the Press Secretary



February 22, 2011

Statement by the President on the Earthquake in New Zealand

On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I extend our deepest condolences to the people of New Zealand and to the families and friends of the victims in Christchurch, which has suffered its second major earthquake in just six months. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those whose lives have been touched by this tragedy, especially as they search for their loved ones and work to recover from this disaster. The United States is a close friend and partner of New Zealand, as evidenced by the meeting of the U.S.-New Zealand Partnership Forum that was underway in Christchurch when the earthquake struck. To assist in the rescue and recovery efforts, we have agreed to deploy a U.S. Agency for International Development Disaster Assistance Response Team, including an Urban Search and Rescue Team, and we stand ready to provide more assistance as needed. As our New Zealand friends move forward, may they find some comfort and strength in knowing that they will have the enduring friendship and support of many partners around the world, including the United States.


I have no objections, of course, to this press release, nor to the sense of urgency it conveys, nor to the actions it announces. But would it be too much to ask for a similar sense of urgency, a similar willingness to consider acting, in the case of Libya? This president responds with alacrity to earthquakes. To mad dictators killing their people, in a region of the world where so much is at stake and we can help shape a more promising future--not so much.

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