02 November 2012


There are times, and this seems to be one, where the various dimensions of an event become starkly visible. "Sandy" the storm that came from the combination of a rather large hurricane and a substantial cold front is one of those events.

The human dimension across all of the areas where Sandy expended its fury and tidal surges reached record setting proportions is clear, and heart-rending. There are few words and many prayers. One can only bleed with them and marvel at the decency of people with generators setting up cell phone charging stations for people they do not know. New Jersey, New York and the other hard hit States will come back and it will be the people who make it happen.

Which leads me to another, related dimension. When I was a political science major, a long time ago, (my degree is a BSB - Bachelors of Science in Business, Poli Sci was a long, long time ago!) the working definition of politics was,
Politics is the method by which free societies implement economics. That is, how goods and services are made available and distributed.

The way relief and assistance happens and is distributed for those of us harmed is in fact political. It is about how we will deliver goods and services to those whose needs are suddenly much greater than their ability to obtain them.

There is within that political conversation, a basic view of society. Is the primary agent of delivery for the aid we all know the Northeast desperately needs charity or government. For either view, why should it be one or the other? It is not a small question.

Governor Romney has said in one of his many previous incarnations, that FEMA, the Federal agency that tends to take the civilian lead in disaster relief should be abolished. He said that the activities it does should be devolved to the States. Which for someone who thinks States are important, sounds good until an entire State is clobbered the way New Jersey has been. Then things look different! So Mr. Romney is busy forgetting his prior position and ducking the press - 25 days today without a press interview, during he has refused to brief "pool reporters," or answer questions from press at his events. One might come to think that he is afraid. I know David Letterman has simply called him, "yellow" and he has not responded.

Mr. Obama in the meantime takes a different view. He is something of a pragmatist. For him, the Federal level, encompassing as it does all of us, expresses everyone' response. Given the scope of this disaster, that view is looking good to a lot of people. But this is not the only place applies it. In other times and cases, it is in fact not what most Americans seem to want.

At the end of the day, this time, Mr. Obama's view wins the day on Sandy because the scope of the disaster requires a national response.

It is all such a delicate balance. There are times for community response, times for city response, times for State response, and times for national response. In large part, my choice of Mr. Obama over Mr. Romney is based on the observation that not all problems are the same. The old saying in the Midwest is that to a man with only a hammer, all problems are nails. And that to me is what is wrong with the Romney-Ryan ticket. It has only a small set of tools for a very wide set of issues.

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