Sandy churns up a little cyclone of trouble for Romney

Less than a week before the election and super storm Sandy has given Mitt Romney another compelling reason to change his mind, or at least his tune, without actually admitting that he’s doing it.

Here’s Romney circa mid-2011 on the subject of whether the budget of the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be cut:

“We cannot -- we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids.”

THEN AND NOW: Devastation from super storm Sandy


And as for what to do with emergency response instead, he said:

“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.”

Nothing could have made those statements sound more foolish than Sandy, the multistate natural catastrophe that called for a giant coordinated effort across state boundaries. Which is probably why the GOP presidential hopeful wasn’t talking up the private sector or the harm the nation was doing to future children by rescuing the ones affected by a killer storm today. Instead, he said in a statement:

”I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters. As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first responders who work tirelessly to help those in need, because states and localities are in the best position to get aid to the individuals and communities affected by natural disasters.”

It’s probably not Romney’s latest change of heart -- or at least change of campaign talk -- that has turned New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie into a fountain of praise for President Obama and the federal government’s emergency response to the devastation in the Garden State. There were rumors that Christie wasn’t a Romney fan back at the GOP convention, when he barely mentioned the nominee in his speech. On the other hand, Christie, a Republican, has been an outspoken critic of Obama in the past. Now he’s saying things like this:

“The federal government response has been great. I was on the phone at midnight again last night with the president personally.... The president has been outstanding in this.”

It’s unlikely Christie is looking to boost the president’s reelection chances. So it’s more likely that FEMA is simply doing the kind of job it should have done during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

Which it can’t do if its budget is cut and its responsibilities ladled out to individual states and private corporations.



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