Already this morning, I have heard Oklahoma’s Republican governor Mary Fallin express the need for and her appreciation of federal help related to the killer tornadoes that struck parts of her state the past two days. I heard the mayor of devastated Moore, Oklahoma, say this morning that he could see FEMA trucks already rolling into his town.
But that’s no thanks to Oklahoma’s two senators, both of whom are not just conservative Republicans, but the sort of conservative Republicans who are part of a contingent of right-wingers who seek to undermine faith in the federal government to do anything positive in our lives—except kill terrorists—and who seek to starve the federal government of needed funds to do things like help out during and after disasters.
Here’s how HuffPo put it today:
Sens. Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn, both Republicans, are fiscal hawks who have repeatedly voted against funding disaster aid for other parts of the country. They also have opposed increased funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which administers federal disaster relief.
Yet despite the efforts of Inhofe and Coburn, the FEMA trucks will show up in Oklahoma throughout today and beyond. Those trucks are representatives of the American people, most of whom live far, far away from Moore or any other city affected by what is now four days worth of storm damage.
Inhofe did manage to ask for help of Another kind:
Yeah, now that the storm has done its damage, Inhofe seeks prayer. Seems to me, the prayer should have come before the storm not after. Others had different, less polite, responses on Twitter:
@jiminhofe Prayers work, no need for FEMA!
@jiminhofe what is your view on FEMA and federal disaster relief, or is prayer enough?
@jiminhofe My prayers 4 the ppl, the sadness that u represent them. U voted against Sandy, voted to slash FEMA, what will u and Coburn do?
@jiminhofe. Maybe we would have to do less praying if you’d be a human being when it comes to disaster aid. You’re disgraceful.
@jiminhofe you’re an idiot, and the people of Sandy don’t forget how you voted to NOT help them.
@jiminhofe Maybe you can tell your constituency to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. You know, because YOU voted AGAINST Sandy relief.
Inhofe was interviewed by Chris Jansing of MSNBC this morning about that Sandy relief vote:
JANSING: You know there were a number of people along the East Coast shore who weren’t happy about your vote on Hurricane Sandy. In fact you said the request for funding was a “slush fund.” With all due respect, is there money to help the people here in your home state rebuild?
INHOFE: Well, let’s look at that. That was totally different. They were getting things, for instance, that was supposed to be in New Jersey. They had things in the Virgin Islands, they were fixing roads there. They were putting roofs on houses in Washington, D.C. Everybody was getting in and exploiting the tragedy that took place. That won’t happen in Oklahoma.
I’ll leave you, my friends, to mull over that response, to let the phrase, “that was totally different,” sink in.
Meanwhile, Tom Coburn also expressed himself on Twitter:
Some of the responses to Coburn were also a bit impolite:
@AJK124 he’s calling for any funds for relief to be found in ‘cuts’ to other services first.
@TomCoburn how dare you make them hunt and peck through the budget for disaster relief. They are STILL taking COVER you asshole
@TomCoburn You should not accept a paycheck issued by our govt until offsets in cuts are found, you worthless, anti American piece of shit
Those responses, as angry and harsh as some of them are, represent how a lot of folks feel during times like these. As another response related, it’s “
@jiminhofe Karma.” The truth is that some people get frustrated with right-wing Republicans bashing the federal government, then welcoming FEMA trucks and federal money into the state to help clean up the mess.
Some of us felt that way here in Joplin, when, almost two years ago to the day, a tornado not only killed 161 people and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses, but it temporarily blew away the locals’ dislike for “big government,” as many took advantage of the generosity of the American people, as expressed through FEMA and other federal and state agencies.
Senator Inhofe, one of the chief GOP obstructionists in the Senate, has been particularly damaging, in terms of how people in his state (who have elected him with 57% of the vote the last three cycles) view not only the federal government, but President Obama—who received a mere 33% of the vote in 2012 from Oklahomans. Just two months ago, Inhoffe said about our President:
I was one of those who never believed he could be reelected. Sure he’s charming enough to elected the first time, but once people know that charm cannot overrule his performance in destroying this country, but yeah I guess it’s still working.
Yeah. A charming Obama is destroying the country. He’s not a citizen. He’s a tyrant using the IRS to get his enemies. He should be impeached over Benghazi. The federal government is perpetuating a global warming hoax so Obama can turn us into socialists. And he’s helping Muslims implement sharia law across the land. The Sandy Hook shootings were either a hoax or planned by authorities in order to take away gun rights. The government is either incompetent or out to get us or both. In short, the federal government is the problem, not the solution, as another famous Republican said so long ago.
These and other right-wing fantasies get to us sometimes. They get to those of us who care about the well-being of America, of Americans, and the government’s role in insuring and maintaining that well-being. And it gets to us when we find out that because of the Republican obsession with debt and deficits, the National Weather Service, which was able to warn people well in advance of the storms in Moore and Joplin and elsewhere—and thus saved countless lives—is facing sequestration budget cuts of over 8%.
The American Institute of Physics said of those weather-related budget cuts:
…the government runs the risk of significantly increasing forecast error and, the government’s ability to warn Americans across the country about high impact weather events, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, will be compromised.
That’s why so many of us get frustrated and angry and say nasty things about Republicans. We know we shouldn’t. We know we should be civil, especially at a time when the death and destruction in Moore, Oklahoma, is still being contemplated. But we’re only human. We can only take so much of this stuff.
Fortunately, our President, who has managed to remain calm and steady through all the attacks on his character and his presidency, is much better than some of us when it comes to these things. He said this morning:
If there is hope to hold on to, not just in Oklahoma but around the country, it’s the knowledge that the good people there in Oklahoma are better prepared for this type of storm than most. And what they can be certain of is that Americans from every corner of this country will be right there with them, opening our homes, our hearts, to those in need because we are a nation that stands with our fellow citizens as long as it takes. We’ve seen that spirit in Joplin, in Tuscaloosa. We saw that spirit in Boston, in Breezy Point. And that’s what the people of Oklahoma are going to need from us right now.
That’s what a president of all the people, even of people who gave him only 33% of the vote, even people who loathe him and think he is destroying the country, that’s what a President of the United States should say at times like these.
And the rest of us, those of us who just get tired of the constant obstruction and obfuscation and obloquy related to President Obama and the federal government, we should bite our tongues for a while and fight our fights on a sunnier, less sorrowful day.