One of the things Romney ultimately can’t run from is his record of governance in Massachusetts, and, as Charles Pierce notes, it’s a doozy. Not only he respond poorly, but he also refused to honor interstate agreements to prevent floods (as did other Republican Massachusetts governors, by the way. Because nothing is more sacred than a tax cut). While many people are chalking this up to Romney being an asshole (which is not an excluded hypothesis), to me, this appears to be the result of ideological fanaticism. Consider Romney’s reaction to the 2005 flood in Greenfield, MA:
As the rain fell and the Green River rose, Greenfield’s then-Mayor Christine Forgey tells The Huffington Post that she did not hear from Romney. About 75 people, including many retirees, lost their homes in the trailer park, she says. Still many more were displaced. Forgey says a resident opened up the high school and used it as a crisis shelter. A radio station launched a food and clothing drive and the Red Cross provided services.
New Hampshire had faced the same flooding. It’s damage was worse. Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, called up the National Guard and cut short a trip to Europe to return to his state so he could oversee the flood response.
Forgey, according to press accounts, tried to get Romney on the phone, but she only got as far as a the Lieutenant Governor’s chief of staff. She and others started complaining to the press in the hopes of getting the governor’s attention.
So far, we’re still in asshole territory, but then we go batshitloonitarian (boldface mine):
The town could handle distributing donated shirts and juice. But Greenfield, with its population of 18,000, couldn’t repair this level of loss, which had been estimated to exceed $1 million. Forgey said she needed the state government to respond and for Romney to declare an emergency. But for days, Greenfield residents were on their own, with limited outside help. “We really didn’t get the response we were looking for,” she says. “I had to declare a state of emergency … We really needed help desperately, desperately.”
…Dan Bosley, a former Democratic state representative in Western Mass, echoes Forgey’s criticisms. His district had severe flooding that closed roads and bridges. He says Romney waited too long to seek money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and that when it finally came, it wasn’t enough. Some damage had to wait for a second disaster, and a new administration, to get fixed. “We were the 47 percent out here,” he says. “He just couldn’t be bothered. He was out of state. He just ignored us and I just found that very frustrating.”
Whether it’s cynical pandering to batshitloonitarians or batshitloonitarianism that Romney comes by honestly, what I find shocking is that all Romney had to do was ask the federal government for assistance, and he would get money that he’s not responsible for. Most politicians, Democratic and Republican, do this all the time (Republicans tend to be more hypocritical about it, but do it all the same). Hell, if he could, Boston Mayor Tom Menino would declare a disaster every day just to get the federal bucks.
To be this foolish over what are really small amounts of money is the sign of ideological capture. After all, New Jersey governor Chris Christie is a bonafide, flat-out asshole, and he has no problems whatsoever taking federal disaster assistance (nor should he). Atrios notes that, if we weren’t governed by wackaloons, we would be sent massive amounts of reconstruction aid to New York and other affected states.
Digby describes the Republican plan to privatize disaster aid and reconstruction (and the ‘successful’–for contractors anyway–reconstruction of Iraq was the guide):
I wrote a screed about this at the time, concluding with this observation:
The model we should look at is the Coalition Provisional Government in Iraq. That too was going to be a bold and courageous experiment in laissez-faire wet-dream governance. Instead it was the biggest boondoggle in history with more than 8.8 billion dollars officially unaccounted for and undoubtedly tens of billions more wasted on fraud and corruption. Bush’s base, by which I mean corporate America, did very, very well. They will undoubtedly do well in Boondoggle Part Two as well.
People say that they aren’t really that radical, that they’re just playing to their base etc, etc. But this was a real plan. They wanted to get it done and if Bush hadn’t screwed the pooch it’s entirely possible that they could have done quite a bit of it. This is a real vision and don’t kid yourself, if they were given enough state power to enact it, they would.
You should think about this before you vote. And before anyone claims I’m politicizing this, the governmental response to a disaster is inherently political. Politics is the way we improve the response.
Or in the case of Mitt Romney, make the response worse.