Eighty six months can be forever in the consciousness of the American public. Daily life crowds out memories.
But even over time, we still remember those things whose effects persist. We remember the financial crisis because good people still hurt. We remember the invasions because combat heroes are still in harm's way.
We also remember the horrific events. Emblazoned on our minds will forever be the September attacks on American buildings filled with people.
And we remember, from eighty four months ago, the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. The icons persist, refusing to fade. Those terrible pictures of floating bodies, the temporary shelter of a dome that became an ongoing hell for those who waited and waited for help. An agency that could not overcome its own red tape. The I-can-see-my-house photo of President Bush looking out from Air Force One. The HeckavaJobBrownie moments, from the birthday party for John McCain while adults and children died, to Condi Rice shopping for shoes. And Brownie himself, the Horse Show manager turned disaster relief disaster. When his email messages were later revealed, they showed a mind preoccupied with his choice of cufflinks as he readied for television interviews.
What is forgotten is the oscillating nature of FEMA since its formulation in the late 1970s. It seemed like a shining example of federal accomplishment at first. Disparate agencies and bureaus were pulled together, combined into a single unified rescue force. But during the Reagan and Bush administrations, FEMA became the destination of do-nothing retirees. Like an ambassadorship to some quiet tropical paradise, it was a patronage reward for countless contributors and out-of-office pols.
In 1992, the final full year of the Presidency of George Herbert Walker Bush, Hurricane Andrew hit Florida like a sledge hammer. FEMA, sluggish with political cronies, searched in vain for its tail. The beleaguered local management director for one county became briefly famous for her on air frustration. "Where in HELL is the cavalry?" It wasn't the first instance of an agency that seemed the victim of bureaucratic arteriosclerosis. When Hurricane Hugo had pounded South Carolina three years before, FEMA couldn't get out of its own way.
When Bill Clinton took over, FEMA was a favorite target of his wonkish obsession with policy. He appointed James Lee Witt to direct the agency. By the time the two got through with it, layers of obstructionist management had been removed and the patronage part of FEMA had been replaced with professionals. Hundreds of local disasters were handled quickly and effectively. The 1997 Red River flood in Minnesota and South Dakota was a sort of acid test, and FEMA established a sterling reputation. Praise came from every direction.
But President George W. Bush let it all go. Katrina was just the icing on Senator McCain's birthday cake.
President Obama is getting high marks for now as Sandy, the Super Storm accused of excessive steroid use, begins to vent Republican-like rage on the upper east coast. GOP officials join in praising FEMA and the Commander in Chief.
If you see a bit of a pattern, it seems to me to be no accident. It is not a matter of competence as much as philosophy. Putting rabidly anti-government people in charge of government is useful only to the extent that government is not useful. It is akin to hiring a PETA activist, a militant vegetarian, to cook a steak. You simply cannot expect a happy ending.
Mitt Romney is a candidate who lusts after loopholes, even as Bain Capital lusts after the pensions of unsuspecting workers. While President Obama is in the White House Situation Room checking with local officials on disaster survival efforts, Governor Romney deals with the disaster from a different perspective. He is trying hard to escape his earlier stands. FEMA? He never wanted to abolish FEMA. He loves FEMA. He merely wants FEMA to fully utilize the resources of state and county experts who know the local terrain. That's all.
Last year, in a CNN debate with fellow severe conservatives, Governor Romney was asked about what agencies should be cut. How about FEMA? His answer began this way:
"Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut -- we should ask ourselves 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"
His philosophical flight was interrupted with a request for specifics. "Including disaster relief, though?"
He replied, "We cannot -- we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids." Well, that answered that.
The transcript is thoughtfully published by CNN.
Today the Romney campaign insists he was not advocating any degradation of disaster relief. He merely wanted a prudent reliance on local expertise. "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." Well, silly us for getting him all wrong.
Mitt Romney struggles toward a political center that, for him, is its own strange terrain. He has dwelled for a very long time in a country in which New Orleans circa 2005 is the rescue model of choice. It is a conservative land of every man for himself, every woman for herself, every child left to fend.
When a natural disaster calls for every hand on deck, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, like government itself, is in good hands. For the present.
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It is unfortunate that Obama didn't show as much clarity and preparedness this last September 11th. Our ambassador to Libya and three other brave Americans might yet be alive otherwise in what was a KNOWN terrorist attack.
That said, I think President Romney should appoint former President Obama as Director of FEMA come 2013.
Where are our satellite imagery and weatherpeople when we need them?
Information about who said or did what and when and why has been all over the place, often tainted by speculation informed by political bias. I'm trusting FactCheck.org and PolitiFact.com:
I have heard it said that a man's true colors come out under pressure. The pressure of a close election has Obama saying; "Voting is the best Revenge," and Mitt Romney saying; "I ask the American people to vote for love of country."
The choice is clear.
And when a democrat shill on the level of Bill Maher feels the need to try to bully those who would vote for Mitt Romney with comments like this; "If you're thinking about voting for Mitt Romney, I would like to make this one plea: black people know who you are and they will come after you."
The choice becomes even more clear. The Romney-Ryan sign in my front yard will stay there even after the election is over. I will not be intimidate by democrat cowards who hide behind threats of violence.
The fact that zero in on things like this convinces me that you find nothing legitimate to attack. It reassures me that giving my vote to Obama is the right thing to do.
Thanks for your continuing assistance.
Vote for Revenge!
If Obama loses then black people will come after you!
Looks to me like the left has nothing to attack, but Mitt Romney is still running a positive campaign . . . For his love of this country.
I agree that resorting to making your case about this is desperation. It is pathetic.
As for Romney's love of 53% of the country, you over-estimate it based on campaign rhetoric.
Hopefully the Obama regime will soon become just another bad memory, Good Lord willin' and the creek don't rise. And then Romney can begin the tasks of re-uniting our broken and divided country, getting the economy rolling again, and putting Americans back to work.
If only Romney can get elected and solve the problem of racism. We will get "them" out of the White House to solve this issue.
If only Romney can get into office and support the 53% of the people he claims to care about, then we can finally have the issue of class division behind us.
If only Romney can get into the White House, we can all stop hating Obama for being there. After four agonizing years, we will finally know the peace that comes with not hating.
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