On Aid Privatization And Disaster Politicization

So, this hurricane thing… it’s been happening, and it hasn’t been grand. Hurricane Sandy has wreaked quite a bit of havoc on both New Jersey and New York City, with power still out in many areas of both places.

It used to be, it seemed, that when a big disaster occurred, be it natural or man-made (I will include terrorist attacks in this category), Americans could pull together to figure out what to do to fix things, at least for a while. Pearl Harbor brought the nation’s furious wrath into World War II, a war it had no true intention of entering before. 9/11 brought Americans together to aid New York City as much as possible and, for a few months at least, it seemed, brought petty partisan politics and hate to a standstill… well, except for some unfortunate xenophobia and Islamaphobia. Truth be told, we did the same thing to the Japanese-American population after Pearl Harbor.

…so, America doesn’t have the best track record on FULL unity and cooperation and support after massive attacks from a foreign entity… but when the tornadoes ripped through Alabama, severely damaging Tuscaloosa in particular, the nation turned to help. Same for Joplin, Mo. Neighboring states took in refugees after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. When the federal government failed to mobilize responsibly, local and private interest groups stepped in to pick up the slack.

But, apparently, that togetherness disappears a week before elections.

See, when the tornado hit Tuscaloosa, President Barack Obama came into town to view the damage. Obama walked with Mayor Walt Maddox, Republican Governor Robert Bentley and several Congresspeople, many who were also Republicans. During that event, in April 2011 before the real meaty parts of the reelection process began, no one thought anything of it. It was the president doing his job, surveying damage with local government officials, discussing strategies for aid and pledging support. Didn’t matter who was what political party.

But, now, here we are with Hurricane Sandy. Obama has done the same thing he did with Tuscaloosa. He left the campaign trail to focus fully on his duties as president and try to preserve as much life and livelihood as possible. He mobilized FEMA. He called New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie the night of the storm hitting the coast. He came to New Jersey and surveyed the damage. Pledged support. Discussed strategies for aid. Gov. Christie has praised Obama for his speedy and efficient support in the matter, and it can be noted that Christie, a Mitt Romney supporter, has had some less than glowing words about Obama even within the past week or so. When “Fox and Friends” tried to ask Christie about whether he thought Romney would do the same thing, Christie said, “If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics, then you don’t know me.” You can see it here on this “Daily Show” clip about the hurricane.

Of course, Republicans are crying foul over Christie’s words. Human waste pile Rush Limbaugh thinks Christie’s gay for Obama. The Daily Caller columnist Matt Lewis is wondering if Christie could find a way to not look like a prop for Obama’s reelection. And President George W. Bush’s FEMA director during the Hurricane Katrina debacle Michael Brown decided to criticize Obama for reacting to the destruction too quickly.

Yes, there is some political discussion that could be had. For example, what is the benefit of government-assisted disaster relief? Should FEMA be cut or privatized? Those are the conversations that can be had. After we focus on helping those in need, those affected by the disaster.

Yes, Romney suggested cutting FEMA, letting the states handle it entirely. Yes, that would likely leave New Jersey in trouble right now with how it’s been affected. And, yes, Romney has now changed his position on FEMA, saying it plays a key role in disaster relief. So, yeah, we’ve got another flip-flop from Romney, and yeah, the conversation about federal disaster relief v. state disaster relief v. privatized disaster relief is one that we can have, and perhaps should have. I plan to go into it myself at a later time when discussing the desire to have states with more government power than the federal government.

But can we not, for this moment now, just stop playing politics and just help people? Seriously.

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