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The 5 Worst Reactions to Sandy

Disasters very often bring out the best neighborly instincts in people, but they also bring out some terrible comments and reactions.
 
 
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Photo Credit: NASA GOES Project

 
 
 
 

Disasters very often draw out the kindest and most generous neighborly instincts in people, but the doses of pathos and reality that these crises bring to the fore can also make some ideologues and plutocrats a little uncomfortable. Here is AlterNet’s roundup of the worst comments and reactions in the wake of Sandy’s devastation.

1. Tucker Carlson makes fun of Obama for “not keeping the oceans from rising.”

Carlson was in classic blowhard formthis week as he echoed a poor-taste Mitt Romney joke, saying, “one of these candidates did promise to lower the level of the oceans and obviously that didn’t work.” He concluded that the storm would help Romney because “things are amiss in America.” Romney’s original joke, you know: “President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans — [pauses for audience laughter(!)] — and to heal the planet. MY promise is to help you and your family.” Romney's crude witticism the only mention of climate change in Tampa. To be honest, there were few mentions of it in Charlotte, either. But only one party even acknowledges the changing reality of the world we live in.

So let’s let Bill Clinton handle this one with his recent words directed at Romney’s ridicule, not Carlson’s but equally appropriate:

He ridiculed the president. Ridiculed the president for his efforts to fight global warming in economically beneficial ways. He said, ‘Oh, you’re going to turn back the seas.’ In my part of America, we would like it if someone could’ve done that yesterday. All up and down the East Coast, there are mayors, many of them Republicans, who are being told, ‘You’ve got to move these houses back away from the ocean. You’ve got to lift them up. Climate change is going to raise the water levels on a permanent basis. If you want your town insured, you have to do this.’ In the real world, Barack Obama’s policies work better.

2. Romney’s embarrassing, out-of-touch Red Cross event botch.

Sure, all efforts to help storm victims are, well, helpful. But Mitt Romney’s weird storm relief slash campaign rally event was typically removed from reality-- for several reasons. First, his donations to the Red Cross were not what that organization typically accepts, nor were they planned-for by the Red Cross. Secondly,  as Buzzfeed reported, his staff even went to Wal-Mart of all places to buy extra supplies which would make sure the photo op looked good. Awkward:

But the last-minute nature of the call for donations left some in the campaign concerned that they would end up with an empty truck. So the night before the event, campaign aides went to a local Wal-Mart and spent $5,000 on granola bars, canned food, and diapers to put on display while they waited for donations to come in, according to one staffer. (The campaign confirmed that it "did donate supplies to the relief effort," but would not specify how much it spent.)

Third and finally, as we reported ], was the candidate’s repeated dodging of reporters' questions about his previous stance on FEMA (the stance was to get rid of it, essentially).

3.  Conservative pastor blames the storm on same-sex marriage.

It’s almost like clockwork these days: as soon as a natural disaster hits, you can just about count on some opportunist preacher blaming it on gay people. The Edge in Boston reports that conservative Christian pastor John McTernan wrote a blog post blaming Sandy on gay Americans, with some bonus crazy-talk about the Muslim Brotherhood and Israel:

The pastor wrote that Sandy is "the most powerful hurricane on record" that "could do catastrophic damage to the entire Northeast." McTernan also said "Obama is 100 percent behind the Muslim Brotherhood which has vowed to destroy Israel and take Jerusalem. Both candidates are pro-homosexual and are behind the homosexual agenda. America is under political judgment and the church does not know it!"

Of course McTernan blamed Hurricane Katrina on gay people as well. A real class act, that guy. 

4. Other right-wingers’ conspiracy theories about Sandy.

As the Southern Poverty Law Center noted in its recent round-up, McTernan isn’t the only conservative to come up with a, uh, far-fetched conspiracy theory about Sandy. Other noteworthy contributions to the genre include William Koenig’s assertion on World Net Daily that U.S. natural disasters are caused by our country’s policies toward Israel, InfoWars’ Kurt Nimmo’s theory that Obama “engineered” the storm using a Navy/Air Force atmospheric research program so he could change the outcome of the election, and the Drudge Report and Fox News’ claim that the Obama administration is going to use the storm as an excuse to delay the jobs report, also in an attempt to sway the election. That last one is in line with a ridiculous story on Breitbart.com that claims ABC running a photo of President Obama on the phone with the director of FEMA is evidence of the network “creating his template for success,” aka LIBERAL BIAS OMGGGG!(via Media Matters for America)

5. Republicans have opposed disaster relief for their citizens in the past -- will they do it again?

The Daily Beast published a blog post this morning about the possibility that Republicans could turn away disaster aid, as some have tried to do in the past:

Republicans opposed disaster relief that wasn’t paid for after Hurricane Irene battered much of the East Coast last year. Democrats hammered them for supporting tax cuts for the wealthy without such “pay-fors.” Recognizing they were losing the public-relations wars, Republicans backed off.

If more money is needed for rebuilding efforts after Sandy, Republicans will have to decide whether this is a fight they want to wage again. A Republican leadership aide, asked if there was any discussion of a supplemental funding bill, said simply: “Not yet.”

This New York Times editorial from Monday, titled “A Big Storm Requires Big Government,” lays out why denying aid for this disaster would be, well, disastrous. Of Mitt Romney’s notions about eliminating FEMA in the name of “smaller government, it says:

It’s an absurd notion, but it’s fully in line with decades of Republican resistance to federal emergency planning. FEMA, created by President Jimmy Carter, was elevated to cabinet rank in the Bill Clinton administration, but was then demoted by President George W. Bush, who neglected it, subsumed it into the Department of Homeland Security, and placed it in the control of political hacks. The disaster of Hurricane Katrina was just waiting to happen.

The agency was put back in working order by President Obama, but ideology still blinds Republicans to its value. Many don’t like the idea of free aid for poor people, or they think people should pay for their bad decisions, which this week includes living on the East Coast.

But perhaps the most damning statistic of the editorial: “Over the last two years, Congressional Republicans have forced a 43 percent reduction in the primary FEMA grants that pay for disaster preparedness.” The Ryan budget would cut it back even further.

 

 

 

 

 

Certainly, for all the outlying selfishness and tone-deaf reactions since the storm hit, there have also been hundreds of moments of human kindness and empathy. Occupy-affiliated folks are organizing localized relief. Neighbors are lending their couches to stranded friends. And politicians are doing things like acknowledging global warming and federal aid.

Lauren Kelley is the activism and gender editor at AlterNet and a freelance journalist based in New York City. Her work has appeared in Salon, Time Out New York, the L Magazine, and other publications. Follow her on Twitter.

Sarah Seltzer is a freelance writer based in New York City. Her work has been published at the Nation, the Christian Science Monitor, Jezebel and the Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahmseltzer and find her work at sarahmseltzer.com.

 
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