Monday, August 29, 2011

The Politics of Disaster

It has been said that there can be a political angle to virtually everything and natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and tornadoes are not exempt from political scrutiny just ask George W. Bush and former FEMA director Michael Brown. Bush himself in his memoirs called his plane ride over New Orleans one of the biggest regrets of his presidency. Disasters can make or break political careers. Rudy Giuliani became a national figure and presidential candidate in 2008 largely on the strength of his leadership post 9-11. Other leaders have appeared disengaged from reality and have been whipped by a cavalcade of political commentators for it.

The logic here is painfully simple. Lets say your seeking the Presidency of the United States and you’re the Governor of California, which has just been ravaged by a massive 9.2. Earthquake, buildings and roads toppled, with 750 deaths and thousands more injured. The earthquake is of course not your fault, but how you respond is. If you appear strong and in command demanding hourly updates, clearing roads yourself if need be, and checking with suppliers to make sure supplies find a way to get to the survivors, you’ll be looked upon favorably. But if your caught unaware of the situation or are caught sipping mint juleps on a beach in Cozumel, as your state burns, then my God have mercy on your political career. If we can’t trust you in a natural disaster, how can we trust you in an economic crisis or terrorist attack?

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