The Final Week has seen a godly intervention of Reality Politics. Reality often intrudes in the final days and cuts through the lies, distortions and deceptions of the campaign fog machines. And it has happened again, as voters are seeing what at least Mitt Romney’s campaign must figure are politically inconvenient truths.
One of them can be blamed on the deity of your choice. The natural menace called “Frankenstorm” and “Sandy” covered almost half the country with near-hurricane wind, rain, snow and floods, filling our screens with a riveting reality of what Big Nature and Big Government can do. Even Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s loyal champion, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, openly acknowledged it.
“The federal government response has been great,” Christie said on NBC Tuesday morning. “I was on the phone at midnight again last night with the president personally. ...The president has been outstanding in this. The folks at FEMA ... have been excellent.”
FEMA, again. The last time we heard Romney opining on the Federal Emergency Management Agency when he was asked in a Republican primary debate whether emergency management should be shifted from the federal government to the states.
“Absolutely,” Romney said. “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. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.” Romney didn’t call for eliminating FEMA, but shrinking it, big time.
Republicans in Congress have reportedly cut FEMA grants for disaster preparedness by 43 percent in the last two years, The New York Times noted in an editorial headlined: “A Big Storm Requires Big Government.” Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, has spearheaded FEMA cuts. Yet, when natural disaster hits, we have seen all states, including those governed by conservative Republicans, need and seek federal help.
Perhaps even more calamitous to Romney’s presidential hopes, which seemed strong and under control until just days ago, was dropped upon Team Romney not by the hand of a deity but the mouth of their standard bearer.
But apparently desperate to assure that must-win Ohio doesn’t slip away, Romney launched an attack featuring America’s automotive icon — the Jeep. But it backfired like a hand-cranked Model T. And Ohioans saw Romney was clearly distorting knowable truth.
In aptly named Defiance, Ohio, Romney said last Thursday: “I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers in this state, Jeep, now owned by Italians, is thinking of moving all production to China.”
Chrysler, which makes the Jeep and is now owned by Fiat, issued an extraordinary statement calling Romney’s contention “fantasies.” Explaining why it was misleading to suggest jobs were being shifted to China, Chrysler said it was merely resuming the Jeep’s production in China. Chrysler began producing Jeeps in China in 1984 and stopped it in 2009, before Fiat bought the company. Chrysler also has similar joint production ventures that build Jeeps in Egypt and Venezuela.
This was but Romney’s latest attempt to undo the damage he caused himself in auto industry states when he opposed any federal bailout, urging only a managed bankruptcy. Today General Motors and Chrysler are healthy because the federal government combined the two. President George W. Bush began the bailout; Obama continued it and only then moved the automakers into managed bankruptcy. It worked.
This final week, according Romney’s master plan, was to have seen a kinder, gentler Romney wooing the independent women voters in the swing state suburbs by looking presidential.
What we saw on our screens Tuesday was President Barack Obama doing his job as commander-in-chief, ordering all federal agencies to cut red tape and speed help to storm victims and local officials. Also doing his job as consoler-in-chief, praising heroic first responders and patriotically celebrating the spirit of America at its best.
We saw, on our screens, Obama at his presidential best.
Martin Schram writes political analysis for Scripps Howard News Service.