Obama Rolls Out First Concrete Haiti Relief Steps

Howard Fineman wrote in this space yesterday that President Obama would feel pressured to come out with a strong response to the earthquake in Haiti as a result of both the memory of Hurricane Katrina and the racial makeup of the nation. What form would that take? Howard said we could expect to see a parade of strong statements as well as U.S. military involvement on the ground to assist in rescue efforts.

It looks like he was right. In a short address this morning, Obama—flanked by Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Clinton, Secretary of Defense Gates, Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano and Adm. Mike Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs—said Haiti "must be a priority. This is a situation that calls out for American leadership." He pledged an immediate investment of $100 million for relief efforts. On the military side, the 82nd Airborne Division, a Marine unit, the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, and a Navy hospital ship are being dispatched to join Coast Guard cutters that have already been deployed. That's in addition to an airlift of water and medical supplies already underway.

The text of Obama's statement is here. For an understanding of the basic facts of the earthquake, read this. To read about how the earthquake has plunged Haiti back into chaos after a hopeful stretch, click here.