Maybe it’s because the state of Texas has weathered higher category hurricanes with far less fuss than that with which the East Coast is presently handling Hurricane Irene, but Texas Gov. Rick Perry refuses to allow the abundant meteorological moments of this week overshadow the economy. Political Ticker reports:
The Texas governor appeared at a county GOP picnic in Des Moines on Saturday. During an exchange with reporters, Perry was asked if the president has been an effective leader during a week that saw two menacing natural disasters: an earthquake and currently the hurricane.
Though Perry would not cast judgment, he did cast his answer in overtly political terms.
“He has been an absolute disaster as a president from the standpoint of our economy. That’s what people are really focused on,” Perry said. “Taking a snapshot of whether or not he’s appropriately dealt with the hurricane – I don’t know yet. I’ll tell you when the hurricane’s over.”
Frankly, the news media ought to take a leaf out of Perry’s book and remember the economy even in the midst of a rocky weather week. Irene has already caused significant inconvenience to coasters (as Ed reported this morning, 3 million are without power) and, even more tragically, has resulted in at least one death, but the media devoted so much time to the earthquake and pre-storm prep (probably because most of the media is on the East Coast) that the president essentially received a free pass on the dismal economic news that also emerged this week. Weekly jobless claims rose by 5,000. Home mortgage applications dropped to a new 15-year low. The CBO’s positive predictions of deficit reduction were based on measures that will never take effect.
Of course the media should have devoted a significant amount of attention to the earthquake and to Hurricane Irene. Natural disasters are without question newsworthy — and, if Hurricane Katrina taught us anything, it’s that it would always be better to have too much media coverage on the front end than a need for endless media coverage on the back end. But it did seem eventually to grow a little out of proportion. I’ll be eager to read any Pew-Project-for-Excellence-in-Journalism-type research that breaks down the exact distribution of the news this week.
At one point, I found myself so perplexed by the hype (The Weather Channel, for example, featured a reporter dramatically bemoaning roughly 25 mph winds — a relatively common day in states like Oklahoma and Kansas!) that I began to brainstorm conspiracy theories. Could it be, I wondered, that the media wants to concoct a more extreme disaster the president could then be demonstrated to have capably “solved,” to have adequately addressed? (Political Ticker’s headline for the story above helps this theory along, actually: “Perry not ready to praise Obama’s handling of Hurricane Irene,” the hed writer writes, as though it’s automatic and obvious that his handling of the storm should be praised. But, then, I tend to read too much into things.)
I don’t really think that, of course. I think it’s August and news is slow — and, anyway, as it turns out, Irene did hit North Carolina with 85 mph winds — winds well worthy of a bit of bemoaning. By the time it hit the Northeast, it was just a tropical storm, but still damaging. Still, throughout the week, I found Fox News’ Shepard Smith’s consistent talk-down of both weather-related events refreshing and I find Perry’s comments particularly apt now.
The Texas governor followed up his pseudo-criticism of the president with an important reminder: State-level leaders, even more so than the president or other national bureaucrats, will bear the brunt of responsibility of cleaning up after the storm.
“Those governors of those states along the Eastern Seaboard are the ones that are actually going to be making the decisions that save the lives, that prepare for this hurricane, that do the search and rescue, and then frankly – do the first part of the recovery,” Perry said.
Yep. Sure, federal-level disasters mandate a federal-level response, but, in America, folks pitch in and help their neighbors in an emergency. They don’t just wait for FEMA to inefficiently address their problems or for the president to glibly gloss over policy-created crises to wax eloquent about matters out of his control. Or, at least, in the America of my imagination, they don’t. Wish that were always the reality, as well.