The Silver Lining
Did Frankenstorm take America off a Path to Catastrophe?
© Bryan Zepp Jamieson
October 31st, 2012
First, I am truly sorry for the death and destruction that the Frankenstorm visited upon people in the Northeast. For the vast majority, the storm means a few days without power, and perhaps talks with insurance adjusters over payments for storm damage. For those who lost loved ones or their homes, my deepest regrets.
Coming as it did, a week before a presidential election, it’s impossible not to look at the political calculus of the storm. If the election were as truly close as some of the polls suggested, then the fallout from the storm seems to be strongly favoring Obama.
It isn’t just that it happened while he was President, and the country always gives support to the President in times of national challenge. Merely pointing that political fact out is significantly less cynical than the Republicans, who, days after 9/11, started trying to parlay that massive catastrophe into a tax cut for the rich. Give billionaires tax cuts or the terrorists win. It was pretty disgraceful.
In this instance, there were several other factors that exacerbated the boost that Obama got at the expense of Romney.
First, there was an unlikely force: Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. The Republican governor, much touted as a potential GOP candidate in 2016, is no friend to Obama. Nor is he noticeably warm toward Romney. But as the coastal regions of his state were inundated, he leapt to the fore and did a masterful job as governor in coordinating what could be done to cope with the massive storm.
The next morning, Fox News was able to convince him to appear for ten minutes. He was willing to do so, if only to let people know that any assistance people could provide to New Jersey and surrounding states would be deeply appreciated. One of the Faux News clowns asked him about Romney coming to the state. He frowned, obviously not thrilled at the sudden change in direction, and growled that Romney could stay or come, it was all the same to him. His actually words were “I have no idea, nor am I the least bit concerned or interested. I’ve got a job to do here in New Jersey that’s much bigger than presidential politics and I could care less about any of that stuff. If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics, then you don’t know me.”
Faux later asked him about the response from the White House, doubtlessly hoping for sharp criticism of WH response.
Calling Obama’s response “tremendous, Christie said, “I spoke to the president three times yesterday. He called me for the last time at midnight last night asking what he could do. I said, if you can expedite designating New Jersey as a major disaster area that that would help us to get federal money and resources in here as quickly as possible to help clean up the damage here.”
“The president was great last night,” Christie continued. “He said he would get it done. At 2 a.m., I got a call from FEMA to answer a couple of final questions and then he signed the declaration this morning. So I have to give the president great credit. He’s been on the phone with me three times in the last 24 hours. He’s been very attentive, and anything that I’ve asked for, he’s gotten to me. So, I thank the president publicly for that. He’s done—as far as I’m concerned—a great job for New Jersey.”
The Faux hosts looked flummoxed. If Faux News saw Obama walking on water, they would run a story titled “Obama can’t swim!” They had put months into consistently deriding Obama on…well, anything and everything, real or otherwise, and Christie had just shot that down in flames.
The next day Christie toured the state—with Obama. Obama, a mere mortal, did get his photo op, of himself hugging a middle-aged woman who had survived the storm. Obama then said, “We are going to be here for the long haul.” Christie replied, “It’s really important to have the president of the United States acknowledge all the suffering that’s going on here in New Jersey.”
Now, this may all have been a matter of cold political calculation on Christie’s part. If Mittens wins next week, Christie has to wait until 2020 to run, because in 2016 he would be facing an incumbent from his own party. If Obama wins, he’s on level ground with a Democratic challenger. Only Christie knows for sure what his motives are. But he did Romney no favors.
In the meantime, the tone deaf Romney was having a fake food drive in Ohio. His campaign gave five thousand bucks to buy canned food, gave it to supporters and told them to show up and “spontaneously donate” the food. The press got wind of the stagecraft and reported it. Reporters are used to paid-for enthusiasm at political rallies, but this time it just seemed grotesque.
Then there was the matter of Romney’s stance on FEMA. He had said at various times, that he wanted to cut FEMA’s budget by half a billion dollars, or worse, eliminate it and tell the states to have their own FEMAs. Reporters started shouting questions about FEMA at Romney, and he kept refusing to acknowledge the question. This made the news, and worse, reporters started counting the number of times Romney refused to answer. The count was up to eleven (at least) before he finally caved and put out a vague statement saying that FEMA would continue to get the funding it needed if he was president.
Finally, the LAST person the GOP wanted in public view at this moment was Michael “heckuvajob” Brown. The face of the cold and vicious incompetence of the Bush administration in the wake of Katrina, Brownie actually said—and I’m not making this up—that Obama reacted “too quickly” to Frankenstorm. Maybe he should have gone out west for a few days, gotten a photo op of himself fucking around with a guitar with some old C&W star. Had his flaks explain there was nothing going on in New York that needed special attention. Like Brownie and Bush did with New Orleans.
The last thing the GOP wanted was for people to remember Katrina and then watch Obama with the Northeast. I’m guessing that if Brown was still on any GOP Christmas card lists before, he sure isn’t now.
So what might have been a political set-back for Mittens turned into a full-blown catastrophe politically, and probably decided the presidential race once and for all.
But Frankenstorm had an even bigger effect. The media are now starting to very seriously talk about climate change, and public patience with the deniers, who have steadfastly maintained the chorus of bought-out stooges bleating for their masters through the vast heat waves of March and July of this year, the new Dust bowl, the incredible thunderstorms, and the record low levels of ice in the Arctic, is wearing as thin as that Arctic Ice. People have finally realized that climate change is here, it’s real, and if we don’t start dealing with it now, we are fucked.
Romney is squarely on the wrong side, a stooge for the reptilian Koch Brothers and all the other polluting industries who want to safeguard their profits no matter what the cost to the rest of us. Bill Clinton and Al Gore have been front and center talking about climate change in the wake of Frankenstorm, and now the media is really paying attention. More power to them.
I hope the Northeast recovers quickly, and I further hope the losses they incurred at least brought wisdom to the nation, and a brighter future.