Video: When photo ops meet red tape

posted at 5:11 pm on November 27, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

It’s easy for politicians to fly into a disaster area and make promises, but it’s a lot more difficult to deliver on them.  last month, when Barack Obama visited New Jersey in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, he told the victims of the storm that he would blow away the red tape to help them out — and made a promise to one person in particular that his administration would get her business back on its feet.  Donna Vanzant provided Obama with a memorable photo op, but became quickly forgotten in the bureaucracy Obama promised to waive:

Vanzant has been moved by the many kindnesses she received from friends, family and customers. She heard from countless people after the photograph of her hug with the president was published, including from strangers as far away as Vietnam who wished her well.

She said she was honored to meet Obama, but she is also frustrated that she has yet to receive help from either her insurance companies or the government. “The president told me I would get immediate help,” she said.

“Looking back on it, it wasted a lot of people’s time,” she said of the visit.

Fox News picked up the story this morning with a Brian Kilmeade interview:

After Hurricane Sandy hit along the New Jersey Shore and throughout New York City, President Obama traveled to the effected area and delivered a message to both victims and the federal government, advising the fed to use “no bureaucracy, no red tape … get resources where they’re needed as fast as possible.” To the victims, he promised assistance. “We are standing behind you and we are going to do everything we can to help you get back on your feet.”

It was that same day that an emotional embrace between the president and a New Jersey businesswoman, Donna Vanzant, was caught on camera and shared around the world. It’s a photo of which Vanzant now says, “It’s frustrating for me that that picture is even out there right now.”

After losing her entire marina business, of which she estimates a $500,000 loss, she told Fox and Friends’ Brian Kilmeade that her hope has been dashed in the month that followed the photo.

“I was very excited and felt warmed by the embrace, thinking, ‘This is really gonna happen, I’m going to get the help I need, because you promised that,’ and it’s been almost a month now and I’ve gotten no help,” she said.

Believe it or not, because the destruction was caused by the storm waters rising in a flood instead of falling down, financial assistance from insurance has been null. Vanzant says her only option offered by FEMA was to ‘get a loan’ at six percent interest, but she says she wouldn’t be able to make the monthly payments at such a rate.

This story will move today on the premise of “Obama breaks his promise,” but that will miss the point, at least in part.  The more salient point is that Obama had no chance at all of keeping it, either to Vanzant or to the others whom he promised a streamlined process.  Large bureaucracies don’t move that way, and FEMA stopped being a relatively nimble organization years ago.  Only a bureaucracy would assume that a loan at 6% would assist in a situation like this, where the business environment as well as the business itself has been destroyed or badly damaged.

FEMA’s role in disasters is limited to supporting local and state recovery efforts, and writing checks.  In Hurricane Sandy, their performance was anything but sterling; massive amounts of critically-needed bottled water and fuel were staged far outside of the disaster area, and the agency fumbled the transportation of both.  Obama could have had an impact on fixing those problems, but a President doesn’t have the ability to instantly redirect resources on a case-by-case basis, which is one reason why Presidents shouldn’t make those kinds of promises in the first place. It’s also the reason that the state and local governments closest to the disaster areas should run these efforts rather than the federal government.

At any rate, we seem to have difficulty in learning the lessons of entrenching bureaucracies, even when they’re so obvious that the first impulse of a bureaucracy-expanding politician like Obama is to promise that he won’t let it get in the way of serving the needs of the people … which is always the rationalization for politicians like Obama to create and expand bureaucracies in the first place.  And if you think FEMA’s response was bad, wait until we all see what the ObamaCare bureaucracy will do with health insurance when it’s fully implemented.

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…JugEars likes to use old white grandma’s for some reason!

KOOLAID2 on November 27, 2012 at 8:48 PM

Heh, useful idiot. Wear the label proudly lady, you helped get the fool re-elected. Bask in the glow of the help he delivered to you. Yep, that hug and photo op were pretty much it.

/@#$%’d fools

AZfederalist on November 27, 2012 at 9:05 PM

Pretty much reminds me of all the idiots standing behind and cheering Oblahblah when he said this…

Seven Percent Solution on November 27, 2012 at 9:30 PM

this is so pathetic.
Sorry I am one of those lib (let it burn) folk.
Let the infighting begin.

I say, every Repub vote present on every bill.

Let the Dems own it. No other way. The prepared will rebuild.

seesalrun2 on November 27, 2012 at 9:42 PM

Typical white woman moron.

profitsbeard on November 28, 2012 at 2:18 AM

It looks like our lord and saviour has no robes.

Bevan on November 28, 2012 at 8:28 AM

He has a gift, Donna. Now you know what it is.

Kissmygrits on November 28, 2012 at 8:34 AM

Mercury One has done more for Sandy relief than FEMA so far.

Freelancer on November 28, 2012 at 9:56 AM

did Peggy Joseph ever get her kitchen?
did Julio Oseguida ever get his benefits from McDonalds?
did that girl ever get gas for her car or her mortgage paid for?

if the answer is “no”, then why would anyone think that this lady would get the red tape cleared for her???

ted c on November 27, 2012 at 5:20 PM

Good points all. The more interesting thought must always go back to the real enemy, the treasonous media. If they thought for an instant that they could use the stories of Peggy Joseph, Julio Oseguida, or the “pay my mortgage” woman to bolster the Resident, they would have been doing monthly follow-ups on those stories. Conversely, in a Republican administration, they would have done those monthly follow-ups if they showed failure.

But since it is their paramour who has done nothing but fail, those stories remain untouched. Just as the common media would never share this story. Obama gets his photo-op, makes a statement which suggests leadership, and that’s that. Never mind that nothing comes of it, that the woman has been lied to and no help ever came. Never mind that none of his previous, boldly-proclaimed sound bites have resulted in substantive action. The important thing was that he said them, and that the media reported him being Presidential. Never mind that the Emperor has no clothes on.

Obama is a nothing without media support. He could not have been elected or re-elected with even the slightest integrity of reporting regarding his past or current actions. Marx would be proud; finally in this nation the Left has full control of those lead soldiers.

Freelancer on November 28, 2012 at 10:55 AM

Some Obama one-liners:
“I guess FEMA-ready projects weren’t as FEMA-ready as I thought!”, with a derisive, condescending laugh.
“She didn’t create that business anyway.”
“Consequences, schmonsequences, as long as I’m President.” (A Daffy Duck reference)

djaymick on November 28, 2012 at 3:09 PM

Well, his intentions were noble (or is that Nobel?), just as were his intentions on closing GITMO, and ending the WOT, and preventing Global Warming, …..

His problem is not one of intentions, it’s one of accomplishment.
One is infinite, the other is non-existent.

Another Drew on November 28, 2012 at 4:38 PM