Who would have thought that a late-season hurricane would sweep up the East Coast of the United States on the eve of one of the closest election contests in the country’s history?
Not, presumably, Mitt Romney.
Let’s stipulate that the Republican nominee for president, like the Democratic president he seeks to defeat, hopes and prays that Hurricane Sandy and the storm fronts with which it is likely to combine will not cause the devastation that some predict. Let’s also stipulate that both men will support and encourage an aggressive response to any crisis that results from a Halloween-season weather nightmare that has, indeed, been described as a “Frankenstorm.”
But, while we’re acknowledging things, let’s also note the storm is hitting one week before a national election that—even as it is complicated by a natural disaster—will name the leader of the republic for the next four years and select a Congress that will define the direction of the federal government.
Let’s also acknowledge that one candidate and his party have proposed balancing the federal budget by making dramatic cuts even to essential programs.
How about the Federal Emergency Management Agency?
Romney says he “absolutely” wants to decrease the role of FEMA in particular, and the federal government in general, when it comes to dealing with natural disasters. Specifically, he wants to shift more responsibility for responding to storms to the states—despite the fact that, as Hurricane Sandy well illustrates, storms do not respect political jurisdictions. And he appears to be enthusiastic about the idea of substantial privatization of relief initiatives.
Romney is not proposing a radical downsizing of federal disaster preparation and responses in order to improve care and service for those hit by disaster. He proposes pulling the federal government back in order to cut costs, saying: “we cannot afford to do those things.”
Indeed, he has suggested, substantial federal spending to address emergencies is “immoral,” as in: “It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids…”
Following the brutal tornado hit to Joplin, Missouri, in 2011, CNN’s John King asked Romney—during a Republican debate—to discuss disaster relief.
Here’s how it went:
KING: Governor Romney? You’ve been a chief executive of a state. I was just in Joplin, Missouri. I’ve been in Mississippi and Louisiana and Tennessee and other communities dealing with whether it’s the tornadoes, the flooding, and worse. FEMA is about to run out of money, and there are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we’re learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role. How do you deal with something like that?