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.