Let me break it down for you as simply as I can. I am a white, heterosexual male. The world of our fathers and grandfathers does not exist. Women, Latinos, Blacks, Asians, LGBT. It is not a white man’s world anymore. We can accept this and operate within the new rules or stubbornly cling to a past that no longer exists and doom our children to a bitter, poor future. Do you really want to be the last typewriter repairman?
One of the parts of the narrative of Presidential Campaigns is that of the October Surprise [wiki] – an event occurring late in the campaign that is sufficient to swing the needle in a decisive way.
Conservatives have doubled down on Benghazi-as-scandal and have gotten little or no traction outside of their own echo chamber. The winds and devastation of Sandy have blown the away clouds of Libya. Rhetoric is meaningless now – it all comes down to who is the most Presidential.
As I write this, pictures are on cable news, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram showing the absolute destruction of the Jersey Shore and massive damage in New York City. Last night the President called New Jersey Governor Chris Christie – at 12am, essentially the height of the storm – and woke him up! The Romney campaign, in advance of the storm, called the Governors – but only the Republican Governors. He has also rebranded his campaign events – in Ohio – as relief events! All on the heels of remarks he made previously that he wants to defund and dismantle the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), saying that Federal aid is immoral. He’s also considering visiting New Jersey to survey the damage, bringing the dog and pony show of the campaign and press along for the ride, against the wishes of first responders.
The threat to the Romney campaign is the bully pulpit of the President. Consider the following exchange on the Monkey Cage about LBJ and Hurricane Betsy, a Category 4 storm that hit New Orleans in 1965:
The next day, Senator Russell Long (D-LA) called Johnson and strongly suggested he visit the disaster area. “If I do say it, you could elect Hale Boggs and every guy you’d want to elect in the path of this hurricane by just handling yourself right,” Long told the president. “Just go there right now. Just go, and say, “My God, this is horrible! . . . These federally constructed levees that Hale Boggs and Russell Long built is the only thing that saved 5,000 lives.” See now, if you want to do that you can do it right now. Just pick one state up like looking at it—you lost it last time…”
LBJ was initially noncommittal. That morning, according to LBJ’s White House daily diary, he had been discussing his presidential library (he was going to have “the greatest library ever in the world.”) Former Tennessee governor Buford Ellington had told LBJ, “I actually don’t think this warrants a trip, but you’re the boss.” Johnson responded, “I’ve been asking Russell Long [for favors] all year, and he’s had a lot of things he didn’t want to do at all… Hale Boggs is the same way and he wants me to go. And [Louisiana Congressman] Ed Willis…. they got trouble with school plans, and they’re segregationists, and they feel like nobody cares about them… I feel about them like a 17-year-old girl; I want them to know they’re loved.” And less than four hours later he was on Air Force One with the Louisiana congressional delegation en route to New Orleans.
Whatever got him on the plane, Johnson was genuinely moved by his visit. After touring parts of the city, including an evacuation shelter whose residents begged for “water… water … water,” Johnson told the press he would “cut all red tape” to make sure New Orleans got help. (See Johnson’s daily diary for September 10, 1965, with detailed descriptions of his trip to New Orleans, here.)
A few days later Johnson made a round of calls to various government agencies, telling Louisiana’s state disaster coordinator Robert Phillips in Baton Rouge that federal resources were at his service. “We’ve got to cut out all the red tape. We’ve got to work around the clock. We’ve got to ignore hours. We’ve got to bear in mind that we exist for only one purpose and that’s to the greatest good for the greatest number.”
Later in the conversation he stressed: “I hope that all the government people can put their shoulder to the wheel without regard to hours, without regard to red tape. Bring to these people the kind of assistance they need in this emergency which is worthy of a great government and a great country. And I want to thank all the local officials and the city and county and state and parish officials, and I want to assure you that up here, if you have any problems, well, let me know about them. We’ll get them straightened out.”
When President Obama gets on TV to assure the citizens in harms way that the Federal Government is there for them, there is no guarantee of equal air time for Romney to air his view on the matter (which would likely be vouchers for everyone). The best thing Romney could do is say nothing. The worst thing he could do would be to attack the President and the Federal Government. Which action Candidate Romney takes will be illuminating as to their own sense of the campaign as it stands, 8 days out. I have no doubt the next 8 days will be sent second guessing the administration on the Sandy response, facts be damned. All Obama has to do is his job.
Two really nice article in the August/September 2012 bi-monthly magazine Beerscene in remembrance of Michael Jackson (the other one, the deceased beer connoisseur). You can find them here and here.
Alas, for some reason the main page only renders in mobile format.
TPM’s Editors Blog has a nice run of posts complimenting and providing context to the Obama campaign’s devastating Firms ad, where Mitt Romney warbles “America the Beautiful”, comparing it to LBJ’s Daisy ad against Goldwater (an ad so brutal it was only aired once, see here for the whole story). The ad is so good that the TPM crew initially thought ringers from Hollywood were responsible. The Obama campaign is still using the same production team.