Superstorm Sandy hit the U.S. east coast hard. It also gave U.S. politicians a chance to prove their leadership: Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney cancelled some campaign stops and transformed others into storm relief events, while President Barack Obama spent the first part of the week in Washington to oversee the emergency response (he was replaced at some events by ex-president Bill Clinton and vice-president Joe Biden).
We asked Canadians living in the United States: how did politicians of all stripes handle the crisis?
This is part of our U.S. Election 2012: Canadians in America series – expats talking about life and politics south of the border.
David Levine, a lawyer in New York City, from Toronto:
I’m told by friends who have been that lower Manhattan (where I work) looks like the set from a zombie movie – few people, random damage, eerie quiet (apart from the hum of generators). Here in Brooklyn, or rather in my part of Brooklyn, everything is normal, apart from the uprooted trees everywhere. In fact, so many people are out of work that the bars in the neighbourhood are packed from noon till the wee hours of the morning.
I have been nothing but impressed by Mayor Bloomberg and his office. He is a class act. His messages are on point, he seems to have his priorities straight, and he seems to actually care. What I particularly like about him is that he never seems to be politicking. He is not interested in scoring points against opponents, but rather in running the city which, let’s face it, is at the best of times loosely-controlled anarchy.
His office took this seriously over a week before the disaster, issuing warnings, setting up task forces. It’s true that the projections for what would transpire were wrong (we thought it would be back to normal by Thursday), and we are now facing a week of no transportation and no power to large swaths of the city. Of course, no one could seriously blame them for missing projections for a storm that was unprecedented.
My thoughts about Mr. Obama haven’t changed. He acted presidential, as expected. He suspended his campaign, which was the right thing to do. The cynical part of me thinks that this is “campaigning by other means,” but so be it. As for Republicans: how anyone can argue that this is a case against big government boggles my mind. Private organizations stepping over top of each other in the middle of a disaster is not even close to a viable option.
Most improved award and “damn surprised I’m impressed by this guy award” goes to: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The whole “I don’t care about politics right now because my people are suffering” schtick plays well, in my eyes. Bravo. Bonus points for calling out the mayor of Atlantic City.
Jenny Zhang, who works in advertising in Greensboro, N.C., from Ottawa and Toronto:
I’ve been very impressed by Gov. Christie. He has set aside partisan politics to co-operate with FEMA on co-ordinating relief efforts for his state, focusing on his constituents above all. He has gone so far as to explicitly telling reporters that he could not care less about the national election in the face of the damage to his state.
Mr. Romney’s response has been to stage canned food drives, despite multiple charity agencies saying that the best possible help they can get right now are cash and blood donations. Red Cross’s own website (http://www.redcross.org/help-faq, search for “donated goods") states that canned food and other similar donations of goods can impede relief efforts.
Andrew Grimson, a researcher in Hanover, N.H., from southern Saskatchewan:
If Chris Christie were on the ballot, I’d vote for him right now. He may not be the most diplomatic person out there, but what you see is what you get! This guy is amazing – seeing him on TV, you can tell he has not slept in days and is focused on doing everything he can for his people of New Jersey. Mr. Bloomberg is out doing his job and getting New York back up and running. Mr. Obama is doing the right thing by focusing on the crisis and telling every mayor to call him directly if they are getting any bureaucratic problems.
Mr. Romney did make a bit of a gesture by having people donate to relief, but both he and Mr. Obama would score huge points if they agreed to suspend the campaigns through election day. People have pretty much made up their minds, and let’s see how each of you handles a crisis.
We escaped all of this in our part of New Hampshire, but have friends and family who felt the impact. This is going to take a long time for recovery and we are going to need to look at infrastructure risk more carefully.