Demonizing Republicans with Hurricane Sandy

The Left descends into desperation.

Leave it to the Left to politicize a hurricane -- while the winds are still howling, no less. Thus, it is completely unsurprising that the New York Times took the opportunity to bash Mitt Romney, even as Hurricane Sandy was bashing the Big Apple. "Disaster coordination is one of the most vital functions of 'big government,' which is why Mitt Romney wants to eliminate it," writes the Times. Per usual, the so-called paper of record is long on rhetoric, but short on the facts.

As Breitbart's Joel Pollak pointed out, if the Times is concerned about cuts to disaster relief, the paper should also look at the presidential candidate it has endorsed. "President Barack Obama's proposal for the upcoming budget sequester would cut nearly $900 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, including disaster relief, food and shelter, and flood management at both the federal and state levels." In their editorial, the Times refers to that sequester as "Republican-instigated," but a book on the debt ceiling crisis written by Watergate reporter Bob Woodward reveals that Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), was the first person to issue a “clear threat” to Obama on Nov. 24, 2009, when he vowed to block any increase in the debt ceiling unless a commission was created to deal with the country’s fiscal problems.

Second, the notion that Romney wants to eliminate FEMA is a flat out lie, one the Times perpetrated and recanted in the same editorial, even as the paper excused its chicanery by characterizing that reality as an announcement by Romney's "nervous campaign." Here's how nervous they were. “Gov. Romney believes that states should be in charge of emergency management in responding to storms and other natural disasters in their jurisdictions,” Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement. “As the first responders, states are in the best position to aid affected individuals and communities, and to direct resources and assistance to where they are needed most. This includes help from the federal government and FEMA.”

That sounds remarkably like FEMA's own mission statement, posted on its website. "FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards," it reads (italics mine).

In New York, for example, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a press release Oct. 26 declaring a state of emergency that "mobilizes resources to local governments that otherwise are restricted to state use only and suspends regulations that would impede rapid response." That is to say, he’s ordering a removal of bureaucratic impediments that might interfere with a “rapid response.” He subsequently asks President Obama "for a pre-landfall disaster declaration" that "would allow for State access to funds and FEMA resources to prepare." In other words, the state leads, and FEMA follows.

It is this particular hierarchy that apparently aggravated the Times editorial board, which is why they highlighted Romney's response to a question asked during the June 2011 CNN primary debate about whether it would be better to send disaster relief back to the states. After replying that he thought the states were up to the task, Romney illuminated the bigger picture:

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? We should take all of what we're doing at the federal level and say, "What are the things we're doing that we don't have to do?" and those things we've got to stop doing.

He then explained why such steps are critically necessary:

Because we're borrowing $1.6 trillion dollars more this year than we're taking in. We cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. 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 knowing full well that we'll all be dead and gone before it's paid off. Makes no sense at all.

The Times not only dismissed the idea that states could handle the response to "a vast East Coast storm better than Washington," but took the opportunity to bash "profit-making companies" who, in keeping with the leftist worldview, would undoubtedly exploit disaster victims in their time of need. As for Romney's contention that crushing debt -- the reality of which will eventually have every government program squeezed white by entitlements and debt service -- is immoral? "An absurd notion," sniffs the Times.

The Times in its editorial perfectly demonstrates the fact that insular elites fundamentally refuse to understand opposing arguments in anything but the most hysterical, false-choice terms. For the Times sets up a scenario in which we must chose either a bloated federal agency or more Americans killed from natural disasters. They simply cannot fathom an alternate scenario, one central to the conservative position, that contends these government functions can be preformed just as or more effectively by localizing and spreading out responsibility with less cost to the taxpayer.

As National Review's Kevin William's points out, FEMA has wasted "shocking amounts of money," including the expenditure of $416,000 per capita to temporarily house people displaced by Hurricane Katrina, issuing $2000 debit cards to hurricane victims without bothering to check their identification, and allowing nearly 11,000 unused manufactured homes to deteriorate on old runways and open fields in Arkansas.

Ironically, the Times itself not only ignores the aforementioned reality that the avalanche of debt, amplified by governmental waste, will make it harder and harder for any government agency to function properly, it undercuts its own statist rationale in order to use Hurricane Sandy as yet another opportunity to bash the Bush administration's handling of Hurricane Katrina. They posit that it wasn't the ineptness of a federal agency per se, but a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) "in the control of political hacks," which made Hurricane Katrina a disaster "just waiting to happen." Apparently in the world of the New York Times, government agencies are only under the control of political hacks when a Republican administration is in charge.

Perhaps they might want to review the stellar job done by the Obama administration’s Justice Department and the ATF with respect to the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal, or the string of bankrupt green energy companies financed by the Department of Energy, or the loss of four American lives in Benghazi precipitated by a series of stand down orders emanating from either the State Department or the CIA, by way of comparison.

Furthermore, despite every leftist effort to blame President Bush for the inept response to Hurricane Katrina, it was Democratic Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco who rejected a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, according to the Washington Post. "Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law," the paper reported.

NBC's Lisa Myers also reported that New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin finally ordered a mandatory evacuation of the city 20 hours before the storm, "ignoring the advice of experts who had warned it would take 48 hours." In addition, Meyers showcased a whispered conversation recorded by CNN between Blanco and one of her aides, during which the governor admitted she had been too slow in asking for federal troops to establish post-Katrina security.

Does such incompetence bolster the Times's argument that the federal government is best-equipped to handle disasters? Hardly. Despite that contention, they hammer FEMA's response to Katrina for exactly the same reason the state of Louisiana's response was so pathetic: a lack of leadership. So let's posit that a lack of leadership at any level of government will likely produce substandard responses to emergencies. At the same time, let's posit that good leadership, also at any level of government, likely gets good results.

This reduces the argument to a fundamental question: does government per se function better from the federal level downward, or the local level upward? There is little question that some government functions, most notably national security, are best served at the federal level. Yet according to the New York Times, centralized, top-down government is the answer to virtually all of America's problems. On the other hand, reality suggests that Americans are far better served in most cases--and government officials can be held most accountable--when local leadership takes the lead. For example, if a roadway must be repaired as the result of this latest storm, is it more effective for a state or a county to begin the work themselves as soon as possible, or wait for authorization from a federal bureaucrat?  Which government official is more likely to be responsive to an individual voter's concerns, his congressional representative in Washington, or his local alderman?

For decades, the American left has worshipped centralized government as the best solution to the overwhelming majority of the nation's problems. Yet the further government moves out and away from the people it serves, the less responsive it becomes. The more important decisions are relegated to a handful of politicians in Washington, D.C., the more freedom is diminished by a one-size-fits-all approach to governance.

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