10/30/2012 05:21 pm ET Updated Dec 30, 2012

Yes He Did - Romney Opposed Federal Disaster Relief

In June of 2011, during a Republican debate, Mitt Romney was asked how he would deal with disaster relief. This was in the immediate aftermath of the tornado that devastated Joplin, Missouri, killing at least 124 people. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was running out of money at the time and House Republicans, led by Eric Cantor, were insisting that they would not authorize additional funds for FEMA unless there were spending cuts elsewhere (because remember -- no matter how much we cut taxes, we never have a revenue problem. We only have a spending problem). So moderator John King asked Governor Romney whether it would be better to devolve disaster relief to the states. Romney said, "absolutely" and then further added that it would be even better if those responsibilities were left to the private sector, because it's ALWAYS better for the private sector to do anything.

King followed up to clarify that Romney's view of devolving as much as possible from the federal governments to the states and the private sector really did include disaster relief.

Romney responded:

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.

When it comes to multi-state disasters, it's simply not possible to manage relief on an ad hoc, local basis. National resources and national coordination are absolutely essential and our increasingly cash-strapped states are simply not in the position to take on such massive interventions. But Republicans have now declared war on FEMA. The Ryan budget, not surprisingly, has called for significant cuts to the agency. And, of course, the party denies that there is such a thing as human-induced climate change, including such effects as significant sea-level rise. In fact, Romney mocked the idea of climate change and the threat of rising sea levels just two months ago during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.

But when push comes to shove, the proof is in the pudding. When such disasters do strike -- like Sandy, whose devastation was undoubtedly connected to changing water temperatures and sea level rise -- no governor, Republican or otherwise, would ever actually turn down federal disaster relief. Just ask Romney supporter, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie this morning.

As if any more evidence were needed, Romney's response to disaster relief and his evasiveness and dishonesty on climate change demonstrates powerfully his lack of conscience and his abject moral cravenness. The Republican Party has become so utterly insane that it actually thinks it's principled to oppose federal disaster relief. Its patently insincere professions of concern about the "children" -- because gutting education spending, Medicaid, etc., has no consequences for kids -- is nothing more than an attempt to convey moral purpose when its worldview is, in fact, morally denuded. And Romney is the most craven of all, because there's good reason to believe that he doesn't actually believe this utter nonsense, but in order to win the presidency, will say absolutely anything, no matter how ridiculous and no matter how contrary it might be to something he said a year ago, a week ago, or yesterday. And if anyone believes that this moral cravenness and cowardice would end once he were elected -- please. He will be beholden to a Party that has simply plunged off the deep end and since he has no discernible principles of his own -- other than ensuring that wealthy people like himself benefit from every tax break imaginable -- there would simply be no reason for him to meaningfully stem the tide of the House Republicans who are now the heart and soul of the party.

Romney's comments on disaster relief, a week after the Joplin disaster, and his refusal today to answer any questions about FEMA and federal efforts in the wake of the devastation caused by Sandy, are useful bookends -- providing as clear a window into the man's conscience as we're likely to have.