Mitt Romney Sandy Solution Starts with Canned Food Drive

Mitt Romney Sandy Solution Starts with Canned Food Drive
Mitt Romney collects canned goods for Sandy victims, courtesy of Yahoo News

Karma has caught up with Mitt Romney.

It’s either that or God has a very twisted sense of irony.  Remember when Mitt stood in front of his most fervent followers – mere days after a hurricane delayed the start of the GOP convention – and dropped this gem?

“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet.”

As a metaphor, Mitt’s ineloquent mockery has turned out to be quite prescient.  Superstorm Sandy is President Obama’s moment to demonstrate how a Commander In Chief can employ the full resources of the Federal Government to address the rise of the ocean and heal the unprecedented damage to a specific portion of the planet.  He can reassure residents in the most densely populated region of our country that their government – at all levels – is here to help them put their lives back together.

Meanwhile, Mitt will do what he does best – offer a very small solution to a very big problem…

While President Obama spent Monday evening and Tuesday morning reassuring governors in the path of Sandy’s wrath that he would cut through red tape and provide a full menu of Federal assets to assist in both preparation and recovery, Mitt was forced to suspend his campaign.  On Tuesday, Mitt’s always in-tune advisers cleverly converted a previously scheduled Ohio campaign rally into a relief effort.

Mitt stood in front of the cameras and related stories about cleaning up a littered football field to his well-meaning supporters while he collected canned goods to provide to Sandy’s victims.  Nothing helps comfort people who have just returned to find their homes destroyed more than a 49-cent can of Spaghetti-Os…

To be fair, Mitt isn’t the president and he is limited in what he can do.  He can’t pick up the phone and call the governors of all the states – only the Republican governors will take his call.  He can’t get into his helicopter and survey the storm damage firsthand.  He can’t meet with the Red Cross and demonstrate appreciation to first responders and show empathy for the victims.  He had to walk a fine line between campaigning and caring.  He needed a subtle show of sympathy.

I picture Mitt in a scene from a 1950s movie.  “Golly gang, there must be something we can do to help.  Wait, I’ve got it – we’ll have a bake sale!”  Since they couldn’t fill a U-Haul with brownies and cupcakes, they settled for Green Giant corn and Del Monte peaches.  Never mind that the Red Cross asked for blood donations and cash...

Personally, I would have liked Mitt to ask Sheldon Adelson, the Koch Brothers, and the head of the American Petroleum Institute to write million dollar checks to each of the states that were slammed by Sandy.  He could have asked the Super PACs that support him to redirect funds budgeted for negative TV commercials to the Red Cross.  With all the resources of the private sector at his disposal, you would think that he could have come up with a better response than a truckload of Bush's baked beans…

Mitt also spent the day dodging reporters’ questions about his primary campaign’s stance on FEMA.  In case you missed the coverage yesterday (MSNBC, Huffington Post, New York Times), video from a 2011 GOP debate featured Mitt Romney’s response to a question specifically regarding the funding of FEMA.

“Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction. And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that's even better. Instead of thinking, in the federal budget, what we should cut, we should ask the opposite question, what should we keep?”

Mitt’s refusal to answer questions about this position is understandable.  It’s really not fair to hold him to his words.  It was a hypothetical question, after all, and he was only trying to outflank guys like Ron Paul with his answer.  He doesn’t really believe that FEMA funds should be sent back to the states in the form of block grants or that privatization is the best solution for aiding citizens during natural disasters.  He only stated that rather emphatically to establish credibility with the Grover Norquist crowd…

Let’s set aside the pandering to Tea Partiers and Libertarians regarding state’s rights for a moment.  Instead, let’s look at Mitt’s giddiness regarding privatization.

Imagine Halliburton – a favorite government contractor – running FEMA.  How would that even work?  Would a Halliburton-run FEMA share the money it receives from the federal government with each of the affected states?  Where would their profit come from?  More likely, FEMA would send a crew of its specially-screened subcontractors to repair infrastructure that was destroyed.  We all remember those quality subcontractors that built BP’s underwater oil well and the electrifying showers for our troops in Iraq...

Or maybe Mitt would send Blackwater in to secure New York City.

While the real first responders rescued stranded residents and put out fires, the Blackwater security detail could drive around in black SUVs and shoot looters on sight.  And we would be assured that whatever they did, however they did it, it would be far cheaper than if all those overpaid government workers employed by a wasteful bureaucracy did the same thing...

Moderate Mitt could not have possibly suggested that a private firm would handle disaster response better than the federal government.  He must have only meant what he said about the states being best situated in times of crisis.  We need only look to his own record as governor of Massachusetts to recognize how a hands-on governor handles natural disasters.

Mitt's initial response to weather-related crises usually involved ignoring the problem.  In instance after instance, Romney demonstrated that he was either unaware of his responsibility, indifferent to the short and long-term impact on his citizens, or unwilling to spend the state's money.  In one instance, local officials contacted Senator Ted Kennedy directly for Federal aid.  In another, Mitt waited to send state aid until he was certain about the amount the Federal government would reimburse.  In one glaring example, Romney vetoed funds for a town perpetually swamped by flooding, later claiming that the importance was never conveyed to him.

Clearly, Mitt Romney is not the leader this country needs in times of natural disaster.

Hurricane Sandy may very well go down in history as the perfect storm.  It may serve as the single natural event that demonstrates conclusively that Global Warming is real and that the effects of climate change will only continue to be more devastating as time goes on.  It might actually convince the citizenry that agreement among 90% of climate scientists is actually a consensus.

Hopefully, Sandy will remind the American people what a real leader looks like in the face of a natural disaster that affects the lives of millions.

Maybe we can avoid another perfect storm.  Not one caused by Mother Nature, but by the ill-informed policies championed by a Romney Administration...

UPDATE 10-31-12: The Romney Campaign has finally issued a statement regarding where Mitt Romney stands on FEMA after weighing public opinion on Superstorm Sandy:

"I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters," Romney said in a statement supplied by his campaign Wednesday. "As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first responders who work tirelessly to help those in need, because states and localities are in the best position to get aid to the individuals and communities affected by natural disasters."  - Huffington Post

He did not however, address whether he shares his running mate's views that every increase in spending for FEMA must be met with a spending cut to another department's budget.  IMHO, this was another Etch-A-Sketch moment for Mitt after being called out for being on the wrong side of an issue that is important to voters...

 

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