Read more http://www.newyorker.com/online/blo...problem-and-a-fema-problem.html#ixzz2AulWsyzn Romney Has a Christie Problem Like many othersâthough not the weather forecasters or the political authoritiesâI underestimated the scope of the storm. Now that at least thirty-eight people are dead, thousands have been driven from their homes, and millions are without power, the election campaign looks like something of a side show. But the fact remains that voting will go ahead next Tuesday, and the politicking continues, albeit in a different manner. On the Democratic side, the devastation that Sandy has wreaked more than justifies President Obamaâs decision to return to Washington on Sunday and to declare a pre-disaster state of emergency in a number of states. On Tuesday morning, he followed up these edicts by signing major disaster declarations for New York and New Jersey, which will make it easier for them to access federal assistance. First thing this morning, the White House let it be known that the President had been monitoring the stormâs progress throughout the night, and that he had spoken to a number of local officials, including Governor Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg, and Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey. Appearing on the networks this morning, Christie, for the third day in a row, heaped praise on Obamaâs handling of the storm. âThe President has been outstanding in this,â he told the âTodayâ show. On âMorning Joe,â he said, âItâs been very good working with the President. He and his Administration have been coÃ¶rdinating with us. Itâs been wonderful.â Speaking on CNN, Christie said that he had been mightily impressed by Obamaâs accessibility throughout the crisis. âHe gave me his number at the White House, told me to call him if I needed anything, and he absolutely means it.â Christie also pointed out that Obama didnât once bring up politics in their conversations, and added, âIf heâs not bringing it up, you can be sure that people in New Jersey are not worried about that, primarily if one of the guys running isnât.â Can you imagine what the strategists, flaks, and bagmen at Romneyâs campaign HQ must have been thinking when they woke up to this stuff? Deleting the expletives, it probably went something along the lines of: Isnât this guy ever going to shut up? Evidently, the answer is no. Appearing on Fox Newsâyes, FoxâChristie scoffed at the idea of Romney making a visit to New Jersey in order to inspect the damage. âI have no idea, nor am I the least bit concerned or interested,â he said. âIâve got a job to do here in New Jersey thatâs much bigger than Presidential politics, and I could care less about any of that stuff.â Good for Christie, you might say. Heâs just doing his job as the governor of New Jersey and saying what he thinks. The President was there when his state needed help, and itâs only right for him to acknowledge this publicly. O.K., Iâm with you. But three days in a row? On practically every network in the country? Republicans could be forgiven for getting a bit apoplectic. Doesnât Christie have other things to be doing, such as inspecting the damage, rescuing the stranded, and trying to get the power restored? Right about now, Romney must be feeling like calling him up and giving him the same advice that Clement Attlee, the postwar Labour Prime Minister of Great Britain gave to Harold Laski, the left-wing London School of Economics professor: âA period of silence from you would be welcome.â The Mittster is unlikely to get much relief on this front, and heâs also got some self-inflicted damage to deal with: the fallout from his suggestion during the G.O.P. primaries that he was in favor of dismantling federal emergency management and privatizing relief efforts. At a CNN debate in June, 2011, the moderator John King engaged the candidates in a discussion about the role of government. When he got to Romney, the exchange went like this: KING: What else, Governor Romney? Youâve been a chief executive of a state. I was just in Joplin, Missouri. Iâve been in Mississippi and Louisiana and Tennessee and other communities dealing with whether itâs the tornadoes, the flooding, and worse. FEMA is about to run out of money, and there are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe weâre learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role. How do you deal with something like that? ROMNEY: Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, thatâs the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, thatâs even better. Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cutâwe should ask ourselves the opposite question. What should we keep? We should take all of what weâre doing at the federal level and say, what are the things weâre doing that we donât have to do? And those things weâve got to stop doing, because weâre borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than weâre taking in. We cannotâ¦ KING: Including disaster relief, though? ROMNEY: We cannotâwe cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that weâll all be dead and gone before itâs paid off. It makes no sense at all. That seems pretty clear cut: FEMA and other federal disaster-relief efforts should be on list of things that should be eliminated in order to reduce the national debt. Not surprisingly, in the past few days the Romney campaign has been busy rowing back from that position. When a reporter from the National Journal asked the Romney campaign about the candidateâs stance on disaster relief, a press spokeswoman e-mailed back: âGov. Romney believes that states should be in charge of emergency management in responding to storms and other natural disasters in their jurisdictions. As the first responders, states are in the best position to aid affected individuals and communities, and to direct resources and assistance to where they are needed most. This includes help from the federal government and FEMA.â So Romney is in favor of keeping FEMA, after allâor is he? On Monday afternoon, even before Sandy had hit, the editorial page of the Times invoked Romneyâs 2011 comments in the debate and asked, âDoes Mr. Romney really believe that financially strapped states would do a better job than a properly functioning federal agency? Who would make decisions about where to send federal aid? Or perhaps there would be no federal aid, and every state would bear the burden of billions of dollars in damages.â So far, the Obama campaign hasnât adopted this mode of attack, probably because it doesnât need to. With the President sticking to the line that the election is the furthest thing from his mind, it can rely on the media to make life even more difficult for Team Romney, which is clearly struggling to come up with a post-Sandy strategy. As of early Tuesday afternoon, the only mention of the storm on the home page of Romneyâs Web site was a link to the Red Cross. The Mittster is scheduled to resume campaigning on Wednesday, in Florida. Paul Ryan, his running mate, is scheduled to be in his home state of Wisconsin. Before leaving for Florida, Romney attended a rally in Kettering, Ohio, which had hastily been converted to a storm-relief benefit: attendees were asked to bring non-perishable food, flashlights, and other items that could be sent to the victims of Sandy. Speaking for about five minutes, the G.O.P. candidate confined himself to the storm, saying, âWe have heavy hearts, as you know, with all the suffering going on. There are a lot of people who were hurting this morning, who were hurting last night.â Thereâs no reason to doubt the sincerity of what Romney said, or the usefulness of his efforts to help the victims. But six days before the election, this was just what he didnât need.