It was supposed to be the week we all focused on those eight swing states -- New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Colorado and Nevada.
And then reality intervened.
The latest "storm of the century" hammered the tri-state New York region earlier this week and we are not remotely far along in digging out from under. I lost power but was among the lucky who had it restored within two days. Hundreds of thousands remain in the dark. No electricity, and for all but those whose technology is circa 1950, no heat, no hot water, and (absent working refrigerators) no fresh food either. Gas lines reminiscent of the Arab oil embargoes of the '70s dot the suburban landscape Jobs became an escape, until everyone had to actually begin the commute to them. Then they just morphed into part of the continuing nightmare. New York City south of 34th Street is still dark. Many of the subways are idle in that part of town, and some of the tunnels remain flooded.
The city that never sleeps is officially exhausted.
Natural disasters bring out the worst in Mother Nature but often the best in us. New Jersey's in-your-face Governor Chris Christie had a moment -- actually more like a long weekend -- of consummate class this week, continually praising the president he had been routinely lampooning, honestly grateful for the on the job competence Obama exhibited on Sandy, in contrast to the federal government's insouciance on Katrina in 2005. The same, however, could not be said of Mitt Romney. The man who only months ago told us he wanted to shutter the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and outsource disaster relief to the states and localities affected, was eerily silent when journalists asked if he was still of that view.
What's he waiting for?
Memo to Mitt -- next Wednesday is too late.
Further memo to Mitt -- closing FEMA is truly a bad idea.
In case Governor "I-saved-the-Olympics-am-a-businessman-and-trust-me-will-create-jobs-even-though-I -can't-tell-you-how-because-what-I'm-for-actually-doesn't-do-it" hasn't noticed, natural disasters tend to cripple or seriously hamper the areas affected. Last time anyone checked, Louisiana did not have the resources to dig out from Katrina on its own in 2005, nor do New York City or New Jersey or Connecticut in the wake of Sandy today. As of now, FEMA can call in the Army Corps of Engineers, which actually has a unit committed to nothing but "unwatering" a flooded levee (or tunnel). And today, those "unwater-ers" are busy drying out lower Manhattan.
So Mayor Bloomberg doesn't have to.
Disaster relief has been part of the federal government's mandate for more than a hundred years. The only reason it was not part of that mandate beforehand is that the Feds did not then have the capacity to move resources and manpower to the scenes of natural disasters on a moment's notice. Today they do. Right now, there are hundreds of FEMA employees from across the nation, marching through the Rockaways in New York City and through towns up and down the Jersey Shore, making sure those without access to phones or the Internet can immediately apply for the assistance they need. Last night, the National Guard in their army convoys was ferrying families in flooded Hoboken to safety. In the months ahead, the federal government will be writing checks to tens of thousands of victims who will re-build their homes and businesses.
The states and localities could not do that on their own either.
Throughout this presidential campaign, I have been searching for the best word to describe the GOP's challenge to Obama this year. And I now think Mother Nature has come up with that word. Romney's vision, if it can be called that, is artificial. There is a disconnect between the problems we face and the so-called solutions he trumpets. You can't jump-start an economy starved for demand by crippling the ability to use fiscal policy to create that demand. You can't empower women while controlling and denying their access to health care. You can't beat terrorism by ignoring the world's terrorist-in-chief, the now dead bin Laden. You can't lament the frequency of now annual storms of the century while denying climate change or global warming. And you can't be for disaster relief if you demand that it come only from those governments least able to provide it.
That's not relief.
And it is Romney's platform.
He may have been a can-do businessman. But he's now proposing to be...
A won't do-president.