With all due respect to the people personally impacted by Hurricane Sandy, allow me to explain why this event is the perfect symbol of what a Mitt Romney presidency would look like.
Mitt Romney, desperate to maintain some form of relevance during a national disaster that killed dozens of people, put millions out of their homes, plunged millions more into darkness and plunged hundreds of towns under water, decided to rename his “victory rally” slated for today in Ohio, and dress it up as a World War II “relief effort,” complete with a canned goods drive.
Team Romney didn’t want to be caught making the same mistake they have made throughout his campaign — shoot first and don’t even bother to ask questions or correct the record later — as they did on September 11 this year when we were attacked in Egypt and Libya. As someone on Twitter today aptly wrote, this time, team Romney didn’t want to release a statement in the middle of the night attacking President Obama for ignoring and then apologizing to Mother Nature.
Anyone who has ever donated to the Red Cross, or any one of dozens of charities over the past decade’s worth of natural disasters, like the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, or the 2010 Haiti earthquake, know that it’s cash — or credit — charities ask for. (Or, in the case of the Red Cross, blood.)
You cannot send the Red Cross blankets. Or canned goods. Or bottled water.
Why would you?
For what it would cost to go to the store, buy those items, and ship them to the Red Cross or drop them at a local office, and then have the Red Cross spend countless man hours (person hours!) sorting and packaging them, then sending them to victims would take days or weeks and cost a small fortune.
A $50 donation of supplies could easily cost $50 to process.
Thanks. So. Much.
So, of course, that’s exactly what candidate Romney did.
Romney personally asked people to bring blankets, bottled water, and canned goods — just like they did in World War II — to his victory rally, or, now, “relief effort.”
The Red Cross does not accept supplies. They accept cash (and blood.)
So the Romney camp had to pressure the Red Cross to accept their supplies, which they finally did, after the campaign had asked supporters to bring them to the rally-cum-relief effort, after the campaign made donors stand in line until candidate Romney came to be photographed, rolled up sleeves and all, behind a table, accepting bags of beans and blankets.
But now news comes that Team Romney not only collected Poland Spring, they went out and bought it.
And that’s the point.
Team Romney took campaign contributions and used them to buy supplies — water, canned goods, and blankets — to use as photo op props, then forced the Red Cross to take them, rather than just taking that cash and giving it to the Red Cross.
Romney today “spoke while standing in front of a bank of tables where campaign volunteers had neatly lined up toothpaste, diapers, canned food and fleece blankets, among other goods,” an AP story at Salon.com reports:
A spokesman later confirmed that Romney’s campaign had purchased some of the supplies. Though it was billed as a “storm relief event,” the candidate’s trademark campaign video was broadcast on large screens set up for the supporters who gathered inside the arena before Romney arrived.
“I will devote every waking hour of my energy to getting America strong again. That’s what an American president has to do,” Romney says in the video.
After he spoke, he stood behind a table full of relief supplies and shook hands with attendees one at a time, taking bags full of relief supplies from many of them. Romney later loaded more relief supplies into a waiting truck as a handful of reporters watched. He loaded bottled water, boxes of diapers and pallets of canned food into the truck, and was joined by Ohio Sen. Rob Portman.
Buying supplies, rather than providing the structure and support — rather than directing supporters to donate to the Red Cross — is what Team Romney chose to do to appear relevant.
How would a President Romney, who has said it would be “immoral” to keep FEMA, handle our nation’s next natural disaster?
Sometimes, as the New York Times editors eloquently wrote yesterday, “A Big Storm Requires Big Government.”
FEMA, the Times notes, “was put back in working order by President Obama, but ideology still blinds Republicans to its value. Many don’t like the idea of free aid for poor people, or they think people should pay for their bad decisions, which this week includes living on the East Coast.”
The East Coast, especially the northern East Coast, isn’t “real America,” to the GOP.
And sometimes — despite what the mind and machinations of Mitt Romney would hope for — big business doesn’t trump big government.
Republicans are so fond of attacking government, so keen on exposing how government “doesn’t work,” how government, to quote Reagan, “is the problem,” that they trip over themselves to ensure their thesis is correct. Republicans spend their time in government — or campaigning for the opportunity — making sure government doesn’t work so they can tell you how much government doesn’t work.
Like FEMA under George W. Bush, who put in charge of it Michael Brown, who today was caught berating President Obama for “jumping on” Hurricane Sandy “so quickly.” Michael Brown, the man who was forced to resign as the Judges and Stewards Commissioner for the International Arabian Horse Association — his job immediately before coming to head FEMA. Michael Brown, who, as Katrina beared down on New Orleans, told his staff he needed more time for dinner before he would respond. Michael Brown, who made sure the cameras caught him standing with the president, pretending everything was being taken care of as people, ultimately, at least 1833 people, were dying in Katrina’s wake. Michael Brown, who made FEMA into such a disgrace.
Mitt Romney would do the same.
Look what he just did.
Editor’s note: This article was updated at 9:00 PM to include the Michael Brown paragraph.
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