Scoring political points on Sandy a nasty business
The following is a work of opinion submitted by the author.
On Sunday, I sat in my kitchen watching television and expecting Armageddon. I was scared.
On Monday, I hunkered down in my living room and listened as governors and presidents came together, put aside politics, and said all that mattered were the lives of the American people. I was proud.
On Tuesday, in the wake of the destruction, far worse for others than for me, I listened as members of one political party used the devastation on the coastlines and in the cities for electoral points. I was ashamed.
At the beginning, when the reports of Sandy's breadth and strength and potential were filling the airwaves and cable channels to the exclusion of almost every other story, it seemed to me that this was a time for us to pull together and forget the political labels. I knew it would be hard, especially one week before a bitter and hard-fought election, but we'd done it before after 9/11. It was within the realm of the possible.
As the hours passed and I saw the floodwaters rise and the cities fill with murky chaos, it gladdened my heart that President Obama would, when asked about Nov. 6, brush it off with a comment to the effect of the election would take care of itself.
Classy move, I thought.
That same day, I watched as Mitt Romney turned a campaign event into a request for donations to the American Red Cross and a call to our better angels.
And then I watched as Chris Christie, this generation's profile in courage, refuse to play the partisan hack and praised Obama for his quick response to the crisis.
Of them all, the classiest.
I went to bed on Monday night secure in the knowledge that my country was filled with patriots.
But Tuesday disabused me of that naive notion, as I watched as the Democrats roared back to life, cognizant that this October surprise could balance the scales in favor of their threatened candidate.
First came those who praised Chris Christie, not because he was a fearless and brilliant leader but because he said some nice things about Barack Obama. People who otherwise detest the man found it in their hearts to pat him on the back because he'd been "nice" to their guy and in the process (they thought,) disrespected his own.
Then came those film clips of Mitt Romney talking about defunding FEMA and restoring money to the states. Here, they thought, is an opportunity to show just how heartless the GOP candidate is — a man so callous that he wants to undermine the only federal agency capable of saving the destitute millions.
They even used Romney's call for donations to the Red Cross as a sign that he was clueless to even think that private donations were ever appropriate when Uncle Sam should cover the bill. They ridiculed his canned food drive, and wondered out loud how anyone that rich could have empathy for the afflicted.
Then came the climate crowd, the ones who stopped warning about global warming and adopted the savvier "climate change" terminology. To them, this anomalous confluence of an autumn hurricane and a vicious Nor'easter was proof positive that the GOP had taken Mother Nature hostage and engineered Sandy's destructive path. Their reasoning, never very solid in the past, became even more hysterical as they tried to link emissions, the 'evil' coal industry and other environmental 'threats' to the collapse of the Atlantic City boardwalk.
I'm not blind to the fact that hypocrisy exists on both sides of the aisle. While the games that Democrats are playing rise to the level of the unconscionable, it is equally upsetting that some conservatives criticized the media for spending too much time focusing on Sandy because it was a "diversionary tactic" aimed at taking attention away from the Libya scandal. That is madness, pure and simple. When the prospect of a 500-year storm is hovering over your cameras and printing presses, it makes sense to make that the focus of your efforts, even though the public is justifiably angered at the coverup in Benghazi.
However, there is no question that the attempt to parlay this devastating environmental crisis into extra points for a floundering candidacy is offensive, dismissive of the voters' intelligence, and divisive. Barack Obama deserves respect and admiration for treating the victims of Sandy as Americans, not potential voters. Mitt Romney deserves respect and admiration for hewing to his natural instincts and proven moral values by seeking assistance for the afflicted, not donations from the connected. Chris Christie deserves respect and admiration for putting his state and his people before his career and his profile. Even Michael Bloomberg found his inner hero and refused to sacrifice the immediate needs of his city for political photo-ops.
It seems pretty obvious that anyone who tries to use human suffering to help keep a man in the White House isn't doing him, or us, any favors.