Mitt Romney is trying to look magnanimous in the wake of Tropical Storm Sandy’s devastation of the East Coast. He is reframing campaign rallies as events to collect charitable contributions such as canned food. The con game is working well: CNN dutifully covered his Tuesday schedule as a shift away from his usual Obama-bashing.
Unfortunately, as I have previously explained, the Romney-Ryan ticket’s lip service to volunteerism is just a way of distracting voters from the heartlessness of their policy proposals. All the cans of soup they collect are no substitute for the power of the federal government to rescue the stranded or care for the injured. As John Nichols notes, the Romney-Ryan budget would slash funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This is a regular feature of Republican governance: Republicans in Congress have sought to reduce FEMA’s budget and both Presidents Bush undermined the agency by filling it with political hacks. The results after hurricanes Andrew and Katrina were terrible.
If Romney wanted to actually do something useful for the people in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut who are suffering from flooding, power outages, transit service cancellations, injuries and property damage, he wouldn’t be holding rallies in the Midwest pretending to do something charitable. Instead, he would make a substantive speech in which he acknowledges that he has prioritized tax cuts for the wealthy over emergency relief. But now, he would say, he is willing to forgo tax cuts as much as necessary to make sure emergency relief is adequately funded. Moreover, recognizing that climate change will increase the frequency and severity of natural disasters, he would put forth a plan to mitigate their future impact. For example, he could propose that the federal government invest in moving power lines underground, or modernizing subway infrastructure so that it can better withstand being inundated with salt water.
Alas, none of that is going to happen. Nor will this event cause Republicans to face reality regarding climate science. Meghan McCain, a Republican pundit who calls for her party to accept modernity, tweeted Monday night: “So are we still going to go with climate change not being real fellow republicans [sic]?” By Tuesday we had an answer: Romney released a commercial for Pennsylvania promising to mine and burn as much coal as we can. “And, by the way, I like coal,” says Romney in the ad, with video taken from the first presidential debate. “People in the coal industry feel like it's getting crushed by [Obama’s] policies. I want to get America and North America energy independent so we can create those jobs.”