In a flip-flop so calculated as to give even the most magnanimous of GOP apologists a case of whiplash, Mitt Romney has remarkably come around on the matter of federal disaster aid. In the magic of campaign reinvention (or a blatant capitalization of the ongoing disaster), it seems that, now, according to Mitt, FEMA is good.
Just look at how Sandy has her way with the man!
In an attempt to keep the timeline of his revised views of FEMA straight (never easy with Romney policy “revisions”), let’s clarify his originally stated view, as of a GOP Primary debate of last June. To the question from moderator, John King, regarding the states’ involvement with disaster relief, Romney asserted:
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. […] We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all. (Video below)
There was no roaring hurricane to factor in at the time, but he even doubled-down on that stance in more recent days, when Sandy clearly hovered. In a follow-up to a Huffington Post piece by Ryan Grim discussing Romney’s FEMA comments of last June, a Romney official got in touch with a confirmation:
“Gov. Romney wants to ensure states, who are the first responders and are in the best position to aid impacted individuals and communities, have the resources and assistance they need to cope with natural disasters.”
OK. But how do financially-strapped states get the “resources and assistance they need” if not from the federal government?
That’s right, the private sector. In Washington Post article, The Plum Line, Greg Sargent writes:
There’s another nugget here worth highlighting, though. In that appearance, Romney also suggested it would be “even better” to send any and all responsibilities of the federal government “to the private sector,” disaster response included. So: Romney essentially favored privatizing disaster response.
Again, let’s try to keep this straight: first, he wants it to go to the states; second, he wants it to go to “the private sector,” and, third?
Yep, ring-around-the-revisions, right back to the feds:
According to an Alex Seitz-Wald article on today’s Salon.com, Mitt flips on FEMA, Romney has come full circle. Seitz-Wald writes:
As we noted yesterday, eliminating the federal component of disaster relief is a terrible idea. And after Hurricane Sandy has left millions suffering, the Romney campaign seems to have come around. “Gov. Romney believes that states should be in charge of emergency management in responding to storms and other natural disasters in their jurisdictions. As the first responders, states are in the best position to aid affected individuals and communities, and to direct resources and assistance to where they are needed most. This includes help from the federal government and FEMA,” Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement to Politico’s Andrew Restuccia.
You’ll note the body of this more contemporary response is almost identical to the one made by the Romney operative to the Huffington Post…except for the notable add-on: “This includes help from the federal government and FEMA.” (Emphasis mine.)
In a political climate where flip-flopping is considered verboten, when “re-strategizing” can be seen as scheming and expedient, one has to wonder what, exactly, inspired Romney’s very gymnastic turnaround. Could it be Christie’s extolling of the President’s “outstanding” response (a clearly federal one), or, in the waning days of the campaign, and in the wake of this game-changing storm, has he panicked at being diminished in his challenger role and his, now untimely, position on the very agency so immediately involved in the still-evolving disaster? Or did Sandy’s wrath grab him by the throat and shake some good sense into the man?
Likely all the above. Whatever the reason, the transparency of his flip is noted…and will likely give his confused followers, his party, and malleable old Mitt himself, a painful case of “calculated campaign” whiplash.