I want to commend the Washington Post for its thorough and professional coverage of the Haitian earthquake. But not today. Today (Jan. 15), I want to kick the paper in the heinie for pouring a magnum of beat sweetener all over Rajiv Shah, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development and President Obama's point man in coordinating the Haitian relief.
The 900-word piece carries a headline that is as flattering as the copy it precedes: "Officials Hail USAID Chief's Crisis Management Skills." The article's author, Philip Rucker, records a halleluiah chorus of praise for Shah from his current and former colleagues. Keep in mind that Shah has been USAID administrator all of one week.
Cue the accolades:
"Dr. Shah has been excellent. … Focused. Calm. Facts-based."
—Denis McDonough, National Security Council chief of staff
"He has the background and deep understanding of the region to effectively lead the U.S.'s response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti. … I know he's going to do a good job and make a real difference for the people of Haiti during their time of great need."
—Bill Clinton, U.N. special envoy to Haiti. (Shah has also "collaborated" with Clinton's charitable foundation, Rucker writes.)
"He's extraordinarily competent, extraordinarily bright and also extraordinarily articulate."
—Gov. Edward G. Rendell, D-Pa., a former boss of Shah's
"He aspires for excellence. … He's thoughtful; he's clearly an engaging personality and friend. Frankly, he's a leader."
—Aneesh Chopra, a longtime friend and Obama's chief technology officer
"Raj is the rare breed that combines vision with executional ability. … He's meticulous about understanding the nature of the problem and then being extremely resourceful about the things that need to be brought to the table to address these challenges."
—Joe Cerrell, a former colleague of Shah's at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
"Half the battle here is not just emergency response and humanitarian relief, but creating the basis for long-term recovery and rebuilding. … He has a very clear mind, knows how to ask questions and find the evidence for what's really going to work. He has a very steady and strong approach, which I think is essential for a leader at this kind of time."
—Kathy Bushkin Calvin, chief executive of the United Nations Foundation, "who has worked with Shah over the years."
How great art Shah? Not a semicolon of disparagement or even constructive criticism appears in the piece. On the long shot that Rucker's shower of praise hasn't moistened Shah to plump and ripe perfection, the reporter squirts a little anonymous praise for his subject into the piece, writing: