Election 2016

Romney Ducks Reporters on Ending FEMA -- "You’ve been asked 14 times. Why are you refusing to answer the question?"

The candidate's gone mum on whether he would end life-saving federal agency.

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney found himself in an awkward line of questioning yesterday when reporters wanted to know if he would really slash funding for FEMA, the federal government agency in charge of Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. 

Rather than fall back on his tried-and-true model of flip-flopping his position to fit the latest poll (see Romney on abortion and health care), he opted for a bold new strategy: entirely ignore the question.
“Governor, you’ve been asked 14 times. Why are you refusing to answer the question?” onejournalist complained at Romney’s press conference yesterday in Ohio.
But still, not a word from the man who just may (but probably not) find himself in the position to be making such decisions. Meanwhile, his aides scrambled to assure the journalists that he wouldn’t kill the disaster relief agency, although their boss’s silence spoke far louder than their words.
Romney’s past platforms have indicated that the candidate would, in fact, push to splinter and then privatize the agency, which is designed to provide rapid, federal assistance in crisis situations, particularly after during and after natural disasters.
“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,” Romney said during a CNN debate in June 2011.
“And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.”
On Tuesday, Romney and his camp once again hit the campaign trail, attempting to cover up the obvious publicity stunts by pretending the press conferences were part of Romney’s push to collect donations. As The Washington Post notes, the campaign’s push to collect donations actually goes against the advice of disaster relief professionals, who say that processing these donations becomes a logistical nightmare if the collectors aren’t prepared to put the donations to use themselves. (Romney hasn’t said anything about setting up actual aid stations.) 
Then again, collecting donations does create a powerful photo op.
Whether or not to keep FEMA should be a major concern as scientists increasingly sound the alarms that extreme weather disasters--such as Hurricane Sandy--will become increasingly frequent as climate change accelerates. Then again, since Romney has said that he doesn’t believe climate change is caused by human activity, perhaps it makes sense that he doesn’t think that federally coordinated, human response teams are necessary either.

Laura Gottesdiener is a freelance journalist and the author of "A Dream Foreclosed: Black America and the Fight for a Place to Call Home," forthcoming from Zuccotti Park Press.