The Right Opinion

Democrat Hurricanes Versus Republican Hurricanes

By Mona Charen · Jan. 8, 2013

Just a few days after Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, the New York Times' Paul Krugman crowed triumphantly about the federal government's response to the disaster. “[A]fter Katrina the government seemed to have no idea what it was doing; this time it did. And that's no accident: the federal government's ability to respond effectively to disaster always collapses when antigovernment Republicans hold the White House, and always recovers when Democrats take it back.”

What a fairy tale. Mature adults understand that earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters are an unfortunate fact of life. They further know that government agencies are, by their very nature, slow and lumbering animals.

Krugman was right about one thing, though. Sandy would not be Obama's Katrina because the press is on his side. President Obama parachuted into New Jersey after the storm and declared that he would not tolerate “red tape” or “bureaucracy” by the government. He then hopped back aboard Air Force One and resumed his campaign schedule. His admirers, including, alas, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and the besotted Krugman, swooned.

Six days after Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, President Bush's presidency had been declared a failure and a disgrace. It was all FEMA's fault we were given to understand, and by extension, Bush's fault. It wasn't the incompetence of local and state officials or the levee collapse (a failure, by the way, that impartial observers lay at the feet of another government agency going back years, the Army Corps of Engineers). No, within a few days of the storm's impact, Bush was an enemy of the people.

Six days after Sandy hit the East Coast, most of the press had utterly lost interest in the human toll, though thousands of people went without food, water, gasoline or electricity for the better part of two weeks. The Washington Times reported that two weeks after Sandy, “Bodies are still being recovered in Staten Island. Chaos reigns in the streets of the outer boroughs. Residents have taken up arms – baseball bats, machetes, shotguns – as crime and looting soar.”

When New York Senator Chuck Schumer visited Staten Island four days after the storm hit, a desperate constituent begged him, “Where is the government? We need gasoline! We're gonna die. We're gonna freeze.”

It took three days for the Red Cross to reach Staten Island – ditto for FEMA. For those without power or water, that's a very long time. What happened to the “lean forward” strategy FEMA had supposedly put in place? What became of the prepositioning of supplies like water and blankets? Prepackaged meals and bottled water languished in Georgia and Maryland warehouses, reported

Other obstacles hampered the relief effort, as well, including the insistence by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers that linemen from other states join the union before being permitted to pitch in with power restoration. Red tape apparently sidelined as many as 500 others. Some 50 power generators and 150,000 blankets were sent to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, a FEMA staging area in central New Jersey, but had still not been deployed 9 days after the storm due to bureaucratic inertia.

Perhaps most damaging were the policies of the governments of New York and New Jersey forbidding “price gouging” on gasoline. As Russ Roberts of the Hoover Institution noted drily, “There was no gouging, and there was no gas.” Had stations been able to raise prices even temporarily, it would have been cost-effective to lease generators to pump the gas out of in-ground tanks, where it sat, untapped, for more than a week. Instead, people could not stir from their frozen homes even to pick up supplies at the supermarkets, far less to reach medical care or help stranded elderly relatives. Lack of gasoline significantly prolonged the suffering caused by the storm.

Rather than permit prices to rise temporarily, residents of New Jersey and New York sat on lines for as much as three hours hoping to fill their tanks – sometimes only to find at the end of the ordeal that the available gas was gone. In New York, where the government decided to give gas away for free from the few working stations, there were scenes of desperation, fist fights, and worse.

This is not to say that government has no proper role in disaster relief, merely that there are clear lessons from the failures of the Sandy response that are being missed as the Krugmans of this world strain themselves applauding Obama.



Wan Galt in Long Island City said:

Alas, there exists no such animal as a "clear lesson" when you are liberally afflicted. Or ignorant.

Two constituencies that, sadly, dangerously, add up to at least 47% of the electorate, or so I hear.

God help us.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 7:47 AM

wjm in Colorado said:

When their government bends them over and gives them the royal screw job, the idiots vote for more of the same, liberals are so insane.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 9:32 AM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA said:

The blame for the Katrina disaster rested squarely on the Governor of Lousiana and the idiot Mayor of New Orleans. Money given to the state to strengthed the levees were spent on other projects. The Mayor did absoulutely nothing to get as many people as possible out of harms way before the hurricane hit. Let's face it, no matter what the disaster, things are going to go wrong no matter the good intent of any organization, private or public. The Federal government has never done a good job at anything they attempt and disaster relief is no different.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 11:46 AM

India in GA replied:

You are absolutely right, Sarge. Yet, somehow, it was all Bush's fault--and he was a racist to boot.

Go figure.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 12:20 PM

sfj in Alabama said:

I see christie is turning out just like the rest of the "RINOs" - a political opportunist who is only thinking of himself. There he was hugging the p.o.s. from washington and grinning like a fool and for what? Nothing!. The real problem in this country is the lack of truth in most of the media - it is nothing but B.S., lies and half-truths. I can't think of any media source I trust anymore.
This country is in trouble.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 1:13 PM

Tod the tool guy in brooklyn ny said:

It was neighbors helping neighbors, long before Government, at any level showed up! We helped clean out basements, in Gerritsen Beach Brooklyn. I used chain saw for two days in a row, until the gasoline was gone. We housed a family for two weeks, from the Rockaways.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 5:27 PM

Richard J. Abbate of CT in Cheshire, CT replied:

You are absolutely correct Tod. It all begins with neighbor helping neighbor. In a case like this we are all 'First Responders', whether organized as such at the local level (Red Cross, Volunteer Fire, Civil Air Patrol, etc.) or just stepping out the front door to led a hand.
What began for me as a simple helping hand to an elderly neighbor nearly twenty years ago, has evolved in my case into a local crusade. My eighty plus year old, now decease, neighbor Art asked me if I would plow his driveway when his regular guy bailed on him during a really big, bad storm. I said "sure" and went over with plow equipped pick-up and cleared his driveway out. His wife occasionally needed medical attention, and he was afraid they wouldn't be able to get to her.
One thing led to another and now I have a list of neighbors who know who to call when the power goes out (we're all on well and septic, and some of us have generators). And if their generator won't start they know that someone will lend a hand to get it running, or if the big plows have made the end of the driveway impassable it will be cleared, or a fallen tree limb is blocking the garage I'll be there with my big tractor.
And they help me too! When my mower on my big tractor died, and my place began to look like a weed farm, several of them offered their small tractor mowers to get the job done.
Neighbors helping neighbors is what this nation was built upon. Only now too many folks have forgotten that, or are too isolated in their ways to even know their neighbors. Turn to "The Government", they will help you, and when they don't....Blame it on the Republicans!! No Dumbocrat ever maked a mistake, so it must be George Bush's fault, or Mitt Romney, or "who else you got with an R after their name?" The media are so complict in the downfall of this nation that it makes me want to scream.
Not that it would help.
Good on you Tod for helping out, and using that chain saw for as long as the gas lasted. Mabe we can start something one neighbor at a time.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 11:45 PM

Howard Last in Wyoming said:

"It took three days for the Red Cross to reach Staten Island" I am surprised they even got there at all. Ask any GI about the Red Cross and you will hear words you never heard before, at least not in polite company. How much was the Red Cross charging for the goods they gave out? BTW, Marsha Evans President and CEO made just short of $652,000 in 2009. While the Salvation Army's Commissioner Todd Bassett received a salary of $13,000 plus housing for managing the $2 billion organization. So guess where I give my donations? Hint, they have Red Kettles. Also check out how much of what the two organizations receive actually goes to charity causes.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 8:55 PM