They say he has been silent about the disaster. Not true. See this statement from 12/26. Although no dollar amount was mentioned, he did say :
The United States stands ready to offer all appropriate assistance to those nations most affected including Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Thailand, and Indonesia, as well as the other countries impacted. Already relief is flowing to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. We will work with the affected governments, the United Nations, non-governmental organizations, and other concerned states and organizations to support the relief and response to this terrible tragedy.
This makes it clear to me, anyway, that the $35 million is an initial figure that will go up as the need is determined. Here is the initial breakdown of aid on it's way from the U.S. government. Note the two naval groups that the Star Tribune didn't mention. In a response to a question about the economic damage to the region, Secretary of State Powell had this to say:
This is a very important point because not only do we have to deal with the immediate humanitarian disaster, but the rebuilding effort and doing something about the economic impact of the loss of the tourist industry in some of these places. This will take time.
And so as you prepare for one of this relief operations, it has a certain cycle: an initial infusion of money, initial infusion of humanitarian assistance; and then longer term programs of investment and reconstruction help, loans, and working with the governments concerned to help them rebuild their industries. And the United States is in for the immediate humanitarian relief part of this and also for long-term reconstruction so that the economies can get back up on solid footing and that the people who have lost homes will have assistance in building homes and rebuilding their businesses.
And so this is going to be a massive effort. It's going to take a great deal of money. And I'm pleased with the response that we're seeing from the international community, and the United States will continue to add to the commitment we have already made as the need is known and after we've had a chance to, of course, consult with the Congress.
Note that he didn't say that 35 million was all the aid the US was going to give, and indicated that more would be forthcoming after getting a better idea of the need and consultation with the Congress (I expect that is required, for the amounts of money that will be needed). I don't think the Strib's criticism is fair on this point.
Why else do I think this editorial is cynical and unfair?
At this early date, the Star Tribune is rather careless to be firing rhetorical cannonballs. If their concern had actually been for the tsunami victims in South Asia, they could have just made an argument for more aid and recognized that this is the very beginning of the relief effort. Instead, they attacked the President. Need any more be said?
Update: The US government has now pledged $350 million of aid to tsunami victims.