Letter From The Editor

Hurricane Sandy: When Ideology Met Reality

| November 01, 2012
- Chhobi | Dreamstime.com

My son and step-daughter live in the New York City area. My step-daughter rode out Hurricane Sandy in her Brooklyn home, which withstood the wind and retained power. My son stayed in Manhattan and witnessed what he called an "apocalyptic" scene of flooded streets, fallen trees, explosions, power outages, and building collapses.

The national television networks covered the storm in their usual fashion, sending reporters in rain-gear out into raging surf, high winds, and blinding rain, where they struggled to be heard while warning viewers not to go out into the raging surf, high winds, and blinding rain.

One thing is certain: Hurricane Sandy was an epic disaster. It's being called a "100-year storm," meaning, as my son said, "The good news is that we're in the clear 'til 2112." Given the number of "once-in-a-lifetime" weather events we've seen in the past few years, I think it's fair to say his sarcasm is warranted.

And Hurricane Sandy may prove to be an ill wind for Republicans as the election nears. Mitt Romney said in one of the GOP debates that he thought FEMA should be "shut down" and "returned to the states" or even privatized. President George W. Bush reduced FEMA from a cabinet position to a subsidiary of Homeland Security, where it was run by political appointees, most notably, "Brownie," who masterminded the disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina. In the past two years, the GOP-controlled House has reduced FEMA funding by 43 percent.

When ideology meets reality, reality wins. The idea that individual states — or private enterprise — could coordinate relief and rescue efforts for catastrophic events covering thousands of square miles is patently absurd. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods don't respect human-prescribed borders. We're all Americans, and in times of trouble we all pull together to help our fellow citizens, no matter what state they live in. Together, we're stronger. Together, we can spread the costs so that one state isn't financially ruined by disaster. It's the reason we have a national military rather than asking each state to form its own army.

Predictably, newly moderate candidate Romney is now disavowing what "severely conservative" candidate Romney said in the earlier debate. Was he lying then, or is he lying now? This week, his campaign aides are saying that he wouldn't shut down FEMA.

I say you don't need a weather vane to know which way the wind blows. Just watch Mitt Romney.

Bruce VanWyngarden

Comments (6)

Showing 1-6 of 6

Can show a little respect and at least wait until- literally- all the fires are put out from this disaster before turning it into a political football?

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Posted by barf on 11/01/2012 at 10:34 AM

The reporters standing in the storm telling us not to be out in the storm must poll really really well.

And no, Barf. It is not too early to call out Romney and his comments regarding FEMA.

I am glad to hear your family is safe, Bruce.

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Posted by Dwayne Butcher on 11/01/2012 at 10:41 AM

barf: since Mitt & Co. are already doing spin control, I'd say it'd be foolish to hold your tongue out of some misplaced sense of respect. The nation is possibly on the brink of electing that madman...

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Posted by cr33 on 11/01/2012 at 11:00 AM

Misplaced? Well, maybe once we can account for one last friend in Manhattan, then I’d say throw open the gates. I think there are a lot of people that would be more than willing to stand over a still warm body and begin preaching about this or that.

Posted by barf on 11/01/2012 at 12:41 PM

Barf, you remind me of the "too soon" pro-gun brigade that starts squawking after every mass shooting. According to the Brady Center, the US averages 20 mass shootings per year, or nearly two a month. In light of that, we're always on the heels of a mass shooting and therefore it is always "too soon" to discuss sensible gun restrictions. As for the current topic, there's a election in less than a week, in case you haven't noticed, and one of the candidates wants to abolish FEMA. Seems this discussion is "right on time" to me.

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Posted by ndifference on 11/01/2012 at 1:52 PM

'Misplaced' was a poor choice of words. I do hope your friend is OK.

I just read a summary of a paper that indicated that feeling empathy turns off the rational, analytic part of the human brain (and vice versa). Which might explain why you feel it's disrespectful to discuss this right now. To me it seems necessary. If FEMA is gutted, when the next $bad_thing happens you might be missing 10 friends. Or a hundred. Believing that state governments could tackle something like Sandy on their own is unbelievably stupid, even for a cultist. And trying to spin that away in the aftermath? Now there's a *profound* lack of respect.

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Posted by cr33 on 11/01/2012 at 2:01 PM
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