WASHINGTON, November 3, 2012 – The very things we are forbidden to “play politics” with – natural disasters, attacks on the homeland, the murder of diplomats left exposed to militant assaults – are, in fact are just the opposite.
They are the bloated lode stones of politics just waiting to happen.
In the thickest part of the horrors visited upon New Jersey, October 30, during the Chris Christie 72 hour marathon, an off-camera journalist asked about reports that the GOP nominee might visit New Jersey to tour damage left in the wake of Sandy.
Christie snapped back in his signature temper, “I have no idea nor am I the least bit concerned or interested… I’ve got 2.4 million people out of power. I’ve got devastation on the shore. I’ve got floods in the northern part of my state. If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics then you don’t know me.”
Fair enough. I saw that with my own eyes, snapped my head up from half paying attention to take note. A moment. It looked real to me.
That’s not playing politics, that is politics.
Peggy Noonan, an important political voice, ever the lady yet fist in glove, did all her election day politicking in the damp wreckage of Sandy’s wet and dark leavings.
Her analysis of the big ticket endorsers (Christie, Bloomberg, and Cuomo) was done entirely in the afterglow of assessing their Sandy performance:
“Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey,” oozed Noonan “was his usual compelling self… This is a man knows a levee from a berm.”
Yes? And? She goes on immediately to analyze “his hearty embrace of President Obama just days before the election?” Noonan’s conclusion? “Keep your friends close and your president closer.“
And what thinks Ms. Noonan of Mayor Small Soda leading New Yorkers next door?
“New York’s mayor, Mike Bloomberg,” she says, “was sterling—a solid, unruffled giver of information.”
But the mayor had not had his bizarre epiphany at the time of her writing. Though too late to appear in Ms. Noonan’s important piece How Far Obama Has Fallen, the Mayor did come to a decision.
How? Raymond Hernandez reports “Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said Thursday that Hurricane Sandy had reshaped his thinking about the presidential campaign and that as a result, he was endorsing President Obama.”
Huh? We all know that New York City republicans are democrats. That’s fine. I’ve no problem with political sleight of hand. The good mayor can place his bets wherever he likes. But he’s endorsing Obama because Sandy changed his mind about global warming?
Only the enduring tragedy and great burdens still suffered by Sandy victims prevent me from parodying this plain folly any further.
At any rate, it should be quite clear that the ban on “playing politics” with natural disasters is quite truly anything but.
Politicians doing and saying silly things is not news anyway.
But there is a deeply serious, political matter related to Sandy. One that is sobering, and which requires our determined, collective resolve to prepare for seriously.
We know that Presidential elections are times that threaten the cohesion of our national family. Much is at stake. Even in the best and most ideal voting conditions, we are in danger to fall into real tests of our process and our political stability.
What is left is that we do not have ideal voting conditions in New York or New Jersey. Sandy has shredded our chances for even OK voting conditions.
CNN’s Allison Brennan opens her important report on these matters this way:
“When Sandy slammed into the East Coast on Monday, it set into motion a tight time line for election officials: one week to ensure that voters in states from Virginia to New Hampshire would be able cast their ballots on Election Day.”
Her careful and extensive analysis is a must read, showing that “power outages, flooding and snow left in the storm’s wake could make [voting] impossible for voters in some of the hardest-hit states.
“Fire stations, schools, community centers and other venues were flooded or damaged. In other polling spots … election officials are gambling that power will be restored by Tuesday.”
It is beyond the purview of this brief commentary to cover the systematically laid-out implications, legal precedents, and near sure impact of Sandy’s destruction will have during this deadly serious, upcoming election.
Devoted citizens whose patriotism exceeds and is more exquisite than common partisan obsessions need to study and review of the range of eventualities Sandy’s rage and devastation have put before us in terms of election day voting.
One need think back only as recently as the Bush-Gore elections of 2000 to see horrible cracks of intransigence and division, not healed even to this day. I recall looking in horror to see live on my television a bunch of Florida officials running into a room with boxes of ballots, and locking themselves in as an angry mob of opposite side officials stood pounding and screaming outside the locked door.
The United States was mocked then as countries like Argentina and Iran offered to send monitors to help protect the US voting process.
With elections just days away and huge numbers of voters and areas still fully disabled under logistical nightmares, power outages, blocked roads and flooding, we sit on the brink of political disorder that could rival Sandy’s own destructive powers.
As our good officials braced and prepared with such focus and seriousness counting down the hours to Sandy’s landfall, their efforts and their leadership, as well as our collective embrace of our own responsibility, similarly should begin immediately with perhaps greater seriousness as we face the strong possibility of a different kind of storm about to wreak havoc on our body politic in only a matter of days.
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