by Blueberry T
Superstorm Sandy was a storm of epic proportions that has affected millions of people and caused at least $50 billion in economic damages. While the storm is now over, the aftermath and rebuilding will go on for months, or more likely years.
As we saw directly here on Politicalgates, especially with sleuth1’s tireless updates of conditions throughout the areas that were affected, our readers' support for sleuth’s husband’s work crew that is restoring power in affected areas, and the ways in which our readers have tried to help and look out for each other, this crisis is a time for all of us to pull together and help one another to recover.
This week, we also saw Leadership with a capital “L”. We saw President Obama in the midst of this crisis: a strong, steady, capable, organized and effective leader who is also caring, compassionate and supportive. He ignored and bridged political divides and bureaucracy to get things done. He put together a good team and assigned responsibility to tackle priorities. First and foremost, he has focused on saving lives and helping those in urgent need. Next, get food and water to those who need it. Help get power restored. Coordinate the relief effort. Get all the key people, federal, state, local and non-governmental agencies working together as a team. Get information to the people who need it, and keep it updated. Get skilled crews and essential resources to the places they are needed. Get help from other areas of the country (and beyond). Help people cope with their sorrow, discomfort, frustration and the daunting tasks ahead. Make progress every day. Provide moral, physical, economic and logistical support. Comfort, console, and encourage those who have been hard hit.
I recognize that we are still in the midst of this crisis, and it’s not yet time to draw too many broad conclusions. But I will say this anyway: what also strikes me today is that Sandy is an apt metaphor for President Obama’s first term. He came into office as the economy was in free fall, suffering the most extreme job losses, GDP and other economic indices since the Great Depression. It was an economic superstorm. Even before taking office, the President assembled a strong team to do triage, identifying the actions needed immediately to pull us out of the nosedive that the Bush Administration (and predecessors’) policies had engendered (along with corporate mismanagement and recklessness), and then developed a plan to rebuild the economy stronger and better. He has accomplished a great deal – here is a series of graphs showing how much the economy has recovered. He has also prevented the dire economic straits that plague European economies that are finding that austerity is not the answer. He is accomplishing as much as is feasible, given that the Republicans in Congress are not only uncooperative and obstructionist, but are deliberately trying to sabotage his economic recovery initiatives. Here is more on his plan going forward.
The President also cautioned, even before the storm hit, that this storm would be a major disaster with potentially fatal consequences, that would cripple part of the country for some time, and it won’t be fixed overnight. Some people are lost forever and we are left to honor their memories; and some people lost everything they had. He reminded us that making sure that our neighbors are okay, and helping and supporting those who need our help or who have lost everything, is the top priority; we need to get people the food and shelter and care they need right away, get essential services restored, and we’ll get to the other items on the list of priorities as quickly as possible, but rest assured, we will get to them. We.
Is it poetic justice that this happened just a week before the election, and offers such a stark comparison to the inept disaster responses of the Bush Administration? The contrast is striking: during Katrina, the Bush Administration seemed more a part of the disaster than the relief. During and after Sandy, most Americans see that the Obama Administration is doing everything in its power to help our people and our states in their time of great need. But, just in case some people were too shell-shocked to connect the dots (and/or lost power and haven't heard too much news), Michael Brown, Bush’s unqualified and utterly inept FEMA Director ("Heckuva Job Brownie") reminded us once again of what an idiot he is and how woefully inadequate he and Bush were during Katrina.
At the same time, Governor Christie and Mayor Bloomberg put partisanship aside, and reminded us how much better we are as a country when we work together. While downplaying the political, numerous reports made note of Mitt Romney’s comment that disaster relief is "immoral" and that he would transfer disaster relief to the states or, better yet, to private enterprise, where people like him and Jeb Bush could make fortunes off other people’s misfortunes. Let's not forget that he thinks we should get rid of firefighters and other first responders, and the Romney/Ryan budget would drastically cut not only disaster relief funding, but also funding for scientific programs that help accurately predict storms. (What are voters in "hurricane and tornado alleys" in the South thinking by voting for R/R?) Then there was Mitt's idea of non-political disaster relief, which would be comical if it were not so cravenly opportunistic. (Where else has Mitt been cravenly opportunistic in the midst of a tragedy? Oh, yeah.)
Sandy has another message: global warming is real, and it is a real, major threat to our well-being. No one is immune from the impacts (not even Wall Street). Here is Nicholas Kristof from NYT on this subject. Mayor Bloomberg himself made this connection in crossing party lines to endorse President Obama for a second term. Al Gore also made the connection. Here is the White House report on steps that Obama has taken to address global warming and a transcript of his recent comments on MTV. The National Memo wrote this piece on all that President Obama has done to address global warming. Romney, on the other hand, has treated the issue with scorn. I wonder if Romney thinks his mocking remark about global warming is so clever now? Here is President Clinton, calling Romney's comments on global warming out.