‘Let them eat canned goods’: Romney’s clueless storm response

AFP/GETTY IMAGES Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney helps to gather donated goods as he attends a storm relief campaign event … Continued

AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney helps to gather donated goods as he attends a storm relief campaign event in Kettering, Ohio, on Oct. 30, 2012.

Mitt Romney held a photo op in Kettering, Ohio, “accepting donations” for victims of Hurricane Sandy. Many items were purchased by campaign staffers from a nearby store and attendees to the rally-turned-relief-effort were asked to bring non-perishable foods and other items for those affected by the super-storm.

Some organizations, while they appreciate assistance from the public, find that stockpiling goods and other items an ineffective way to engage in disaster relief. The American Red Cross is asking for financial donations in the wake of Sandy. If the Romney campaign wanted to best immediate impact, they would have far better served the relief effort by contributing $5,000 in cash instead of spending it on supplies.

Anyone who has ever volunteered for relief efforts following a disaster knows that it only adds work to the relief organizations of their volunteers have to collect canned goods and granola bars. Today’s informed volunteer raises funds so experienced organizations can fund local efforts on the ground and don’t have to lug around often useless items.

In addition, Romney was photographed loading what “appeared to be multiple bags of uncooked rice” onto a truck. What good is uncooked rice for people whose power has gone out?

This is both clueless and heartless.

Biblically speaking, “hardness of heart” causes a lack of understanding. (Ephesians 4:18) In other words, when you are not acting out of compassion, but self-interest, ignorance will surely follow. You don’t care enough to find out what people actually want and need.

In disasters, people want and need rapid and effective government action, in coordination with state and local efforts and experienced relief organizations supported by financial donations from compassionate Americans.

Large-scale disasters such as the megastorm “Sandy,” which covered numerous states, require enormous government and local professionalism in this coordination. Republican as well as Democratic governors understand this. Indeed, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, has gone out of his way to praise President Obama and the Obama administration’s effectiveness through FEMA.

Following the “relief” event, however, Romney refused to answer reporters’ questions on whether he would eliminate FEMA, as he had previously indicated. During a CNN debate during the GOP primary, debate moderator John King specifically asked candidate Romney if he would end the federal agency for disaster relief.

“Absolutely,” said Romney. “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.”

And what you get with the Romney model, especially the “privatization” of disaster relief as was on display in the Romney “relief” event, is a pile of canned goods and no effective relief.

A compassionate heart knows this.

Former president of Chicago Theological Seminary (1998-2008), the Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is professor of theology at Chicago Theological Seminary and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress
.

About

Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is Professor of Theology and immediate past President of Chicago Theological Seminary. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Her most recent books are "#OccupytheBible: What Jesus Really Said (and Did) About Money and Power" and, as contributor and editor, "Interfaith Just Peacemaking: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on the New Paradigm of Peace and War."
  • persiflage

    ‘In disasters, people want and need rapid and effective government action, in coordination with state and local efforts and experienced relief organizations supported by financial donations from compassionate Americans.’

    Forget the photo-op shots …….Romney is promising another 4 years of failed Bush administration politicies, so we can presume that would extend to his hands-on competency with real disaster relief cirisis management.

  • condottiero

    Not a good tactic by Romney. Specially in a time in which most of the people identify him as the face of the neoliberal entrepreneurial spirit… For sure, this will get him less votes and Obama is going to end up winning those last electoral seats he needed.

  • SimonTemplar

    This is pathetic. Obama is the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES! He is doing what is expected of him given the power and authority he has received from the people of this country.

    Romney is a private citizen who is essentially as limited as any other private citizen in the options he has to respond.. Yet he is criticized for the fact that he is not yet the President of the United States.

  • SimonTemplar

    Criticizing Romney for not responding to this crisis with might equal to that of the sitting President is silly. It would make as much sense to criticize him for not retaliating for the attack on our citizens in Bengazi.

  • persiflage

    That’s no excuse – Romney is trying his level best to act presidential. That he can’t measure up is not Obama’s fault – and that includes the calculated, underhanded accusatory nastiness over the Bengazi incident.

    Trying to build political capital on the completely unpreventable
    Libyan embassy assault by Islamic terrorists is about like blaming Bush for 9/11,,,,,,,,,,something democrats never did.

  • IntellectOne

    The people said they were hungry, they cannot eat money. Why was the Red Cross only giving out hot chocolate and cookies. Obviously, they did not have canned foods which would be better for hungry people. What did Obama do? Nothing except touring around and was an interruption to the rescue operation. in New Jersey. What did FEMA do? They gave out 1-800#s to people? What good is that if you do not have electricity to make a phone call and no way to charge the cell phone. What good is a 1-800# if you are hungry, at least you can make a bond fire and heat up a can of soup.

  • AgentFoxMulder

    First, if you are not president, the only option you have is to ACT presidential, seeing as you have NO presidential authority, power or influence.

    Second, Bengazi was not an incident. It was a planned terrorist assault on sovereign American soil on the anniversary of 9/11. Americans were killed. It is actually an act of war.

    Finally, it would have been absurd for Democrats to openly blame Bush since he had only been in office for 8 months by the time of the attack. Though, seriously, there is practically an industry built around conspiracy theories about the Bush Administration and 9/11 so you are being very disingenuous.

  • AgentFoxMulder

    By the way, who says the Bengazi attack was unpreventable? Obama?

  • AgentFoxMulder

    By the way, how long does it take to check an expiration date? It only takes me about 2 seconds. Visual examination of a can of food to check for damage? about 2 seconds.

    Are we expected to believe that every “approved” can of food or drink does not have an expired expiration date or does not get damaged in transit to a natural disaster?

    I think the Obama campaign and its media surrogates are grasping at straws.

  • IntellectOne

    Obama does not want to answer questions about Benghazi so why would he answer any questions about the big disastrous, so called, Relief Service by FEMA? Where were they before the storm hit? They were warned days before it hit. There could have been much better preparations. There are too many mindless politicians that do not have problem solving skills. Obama and the Senators the State, and Local politicians think they do not need to answer to the public. Obama does not have the ‘Problem Solving Skills’ that it takes to run the People’s Business. He must be Voted Out!

  • Skowronek

    Remember that Romney was governor when Massachussetts endured immense flooding in 2006 so he should have familiarity with what it takes to help people after a flood. I’m not impressed with his acumen.

    Governor Romney vetoed flood preparation funding in 2004, was roundly scolded by the editorial board of The Lowell Sun (conservative paper) for his dismal handling of the Mother’s Day flood of 2006 and was later sent a letter from the governor of NH threatening to SUE the state for not paying the $3.2 million owed to NH (agreement was made in 1957).

    How badly did he handle it? He failed to respond to a delegation requesting additional aid for victims. His spokesman said the state will not consider spending its own money for flood victims until it’s clear how much cash the federal government will give.

    During the Mother’s Day flood, city workers in Lowell had to call around to find fresh clothing for nursing home evacuees. A failure to stockpile changes of underwear was just one of many shortcomings in disaster planning that have prompted a top-to-bottom review ever since.

    But local officials and advocates bemoan the clear statewide guidelines for aiding the disabled during disasters. Local officials have tried to cobble together their own plans, but many come up short. (2008)

    He was governor from January 2003 until January 2007. Where was his foresight, planning and leadership then? Excuse me, all of those attributes were on display at the time and I find them lacking. Nor do I believe or see evidence that he has improved.

    This was written on May 30, 2012:

    “Unless the candidate has a body of work to look upon, you will not know how they would respond in the face of a disaster. Mitt Romney has had some experience with natural disasters while Governor of Massachusetts, his response?

    In May 2006, Massachusetts experienced flooding from heavy rains. Romney mobilized the National Guard, called for volunteers and charitable contributions for the victims. Romn

  • verbummilitant

    Detract,distract and divide; the Washington Post is at it again. They are the perfect surrogate for the Obama administration. They never allow the truth to get in the way of their absorbing narrative!

  • persiflage

    ‘By the way, who says the Bengazi attack was unpreventable? Obama?’

    Benghazi was indeed a single incident that was staged by Muslim terrorists – what I just said. The war is ongoing and has no frontiers……this could happen anywhere at any time.

    And even today, many are asking ‘was 9/11 preventable, or were long-standing dire warnings of an imminent attack disregarded out of hand?’

    These questions will continue long after Benghazi becomes a failed republican talking point – about Nov. 7, I’d predict. No one in their right mind wants the trip back to the Middle Ages that the GOP is offering. I watched the Hunger Games last night and was reminded of what a future might look like with republicans in control.

  • persiflage

    ‘It looks to me like the Federal response to Sandy is not progressing so well.’

    Looks like we should privitize disaster relief – is that what you’re saying?

    The federal government already takes a royal screwing from the private contractors that it currently employs……republicans never talk about those ongoing abuses but apparently believe we need lots more of the same. More privitizing only opens the door to more unscrupulous behavior by greedy corporate malfactors.

  • lizziepoo

    Another truth is that the Romney campaign bought those canned goods for the attendees to “donate,” at the campaign event that wasn’t supposed to be happening because a supposed truce in campaigning had been agreed to by both sides because of Sandy.

  • AgentFoxMulder

    “The residents of Staten Island are pleading for help from elected officials, begging for gasoline, FOOD and clothing three days after Sandy slammed the New York City borough,” (ABC News, November 4)

  • leibowde84

    This article is a bit harsh. Maybe it’s not the most efficient way of helping, but it is without a doubt a charitable act that deserves praise. And this is coming from someone who is sure to vote for Obama tomorrow. This is a cheap shot!

  • Lyndsay Leach

    Um…where do you think the FOOD comes from? The RED CROSS with the CASH that people donate. Only when they do it, they know EXACTLY what food needs to be bought, what supplies are needed and do it more efficiently by cutting out the middle man and wasting time and resources by sorting through donated canned goods. They can do it faster with money directly donated to them.

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