Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Election Day and Sandy

My friend Lucien Canton used to be the director of emergency services for the City of San Francisco under Mayor Willie Brown. Having lived through the Loma Prieta earthquake, I once asked him if he looked forward to the next earth quake, since it was what he spent most of his time preparing for, or if he dreaded it. "Oh, I dread it," he said. "No matter what you do, no matter how well you prepare, if the earthquake hits on your watch everything that goes wrong will be your fault and you will get fired. You can never do enough."

I think of that when I sit here in New York City and look around on this election day. At exactly the right moment for President Obama, the idea of Big Government was put to the test and big government has, so far, stepped up. After hearing for years how the Republicans, including Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, wanted to de-fund FEMA and the Army Core of Engineers, how disaster relief should be left to the states, we have seen a bright-line example of why that is a terrible idea. With devastation from Cape May to Mystic, with hundreds of thousands of people without power, with homes destroyed by wind and rain and fire on a scale never before seen in this part of the country, we have been given a stark contrast between the governing philosophies of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Mr. Romney and his running mate have preached for years that people should fend for themselves, that if anything only the states should be involved in recovery and the federal government would do best to stay out of it. But this disaster is of such a huge scale, with destruction not only in the tri-state area but in West Virginia, Maryland, D.C. and Pennsylvania as well, that it requires a national response. Only the federal government has the resources to deal with a disaster of this magnitude. Chris Christie knows this. After months of bashing President Obama as a surrogate for Governor Romney, Christie is now heaping praise on the president for the rapid response of the federal government to the crisis.

The President did a number of things that were helpful right at the start. By declaring a "major disaster" he allowed people and municipalities to apply immediately for federal help. He issued directives to ignore red tape and inter-agency jurisdictional squabbles and, so far, it has resulted in aid arriving much faster than it otherwise would have. The military response is unprecedented. He ordered the Air Force to use C-17s to transport line trucks from the West Coast to help with power restoration. The navy has moved in ships to help with rescue. Army and Marines are on the ground assisting in recovery. Homeland Security waived the Jones Act in order to get fuel to the North East more easily. FEMA is moving in housing trailers, arranging for hotel rooms, and finding ways to house thousands who have been displaced.

Still, it is not enough. It never is. It cannot be.

And to conservatives that is blood in the water.

Knowing that the hurricane and the response to it are good for President Obama, FOX news has launched a last-minute smear campaign aimed at FEMA and the federal response to the hurricane. Check out this excellent analysis by Media Matters.  Republicans are scared to death of Sandy, because it shows that their philosophy is bankrupt, but that will not stop them from lying about it. The Republican lie machine is playing politics with the suffering of thousands of my fellow New Yorkers and others here in the North East, because an election it looked like they were winning is suddenly turning against them once again. As Krugman points out, there is no comparison between the FEMA response to Katrina under President Bush and the response to Sandy under Obama. As this article points out, FEMA has been on top of this since days before the storm hit, and their response has been heroic and it has saved lies. But the republicans and their lying mouthpieces over at FOX news will say anything, smear anybody, to help their guy win. They have disrespected everyone in the North East by playing politics with our suffering.

But truth has never mattered to anybody on the right, nor dignity, nor decency.

And today is election day. Go out and vote!


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