Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Forgetful Senator Graham and a Flooded Two-Way Street

by Nomad

When it comes to helping people in need, Americans have always been fairly generous. Austerity-obsessed Republicans  however sometimes tend to forget what goes around, comes around.

The Great Flood of 2015
In the aftermath of extensive and deadly flooding in his state, Republican presidential hopeful Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is now making a pitch for much needed federal relief. The situation is pretty dire, from the news reports.

Some residents in the effected areas have lost everything. Even as the rains have subsided, the dangers are still mounting. Dams have been breached and other infrastructure have collapsed and rivers are still rising.
CNN reported yesterday:
Eleven people are known dead in the state due to weather-related incidents. Of those, seven drowned, according to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety. Four others died in traffic accidents.
Local media is proclaiming the flooding a "catastrophe of incredible proportion."

The Governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, declared the flooding on this massive scale was a "1000 year event." A risky thing for her to say. It's almost (but not quite) as if she is saying that the climate has changed. Or something.
She'd better watch that kind of loose talk. In the past she has received campaign funding from the climate-change denying Koch brothers.
According to one source, “The Kochs love Nikki Haley." But it is a fickle kind of love as changeable as the weather.
Greenpeace points out that the brothers have for decades been actively financing climate denial groups and lobbying against a federal and state level any climate change legislation. It's really not much of a secret.

As you might or not know, Senator Graham is- in his meek and hopeless fashion- running for president and with a showing of less than 1%, right down there with Jim Gilmore, George Pataki, and Rand Paul

If an effort to show off his leadership skills, he told Wolf Blitzer:
"Let's just get through this thing, and whatever it costs, it costs.
A Storm called Sandy
To some of us with more or less adequate memories, that gritty butch posturing struck a sour note. 
Not so long ago, when it came to helping the people of New Jersey with federal dollars, he and a lot of others were not so open-handed. Not so ready to rush to spend.
He voted- along with every member of his Party- against providing federal assistance for the Garden State when it was pummeled by Sandy.
That was too a catastrophe of incredible proportions, leaving economic losses to businesses of up to $30 billion.
According to Wikipedia:
Over two million households in the state lost power in the storm, 346,000 homes were damaged or destroyed,] and 37 people were killed. Storm surge and flooding affected a large swath of the state.
The Governor of New Jersey Christie toured the damage area and said that the state would require over a total to $36.8 billion to just get back on its feet. 

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) conducted an aerial survey and determined that that approximately 72,000 homes and business in New Jersey were damaged or destroyed by the storm, with over 40,000 of the buildings affected being in Ocean County. Based on this analysis, 507 buildings were destroyed, 5051 suffered major structural damage, and 66,212 incurred limited damage.
It was the time for federal action. Congress was called upon to deliver the federal assistance in a timely manner. What we saw instead was foot-dragging, politicizing, insensitivity and shameful partisanship. In short, everything that Americans hate about Washington was on full display in those two months.

Nine-One Days of Politics
When Sandy relief was up for debate, one Senator from Indiana took one look at the proposal and said
"This is yet another example of what is wrong with Congress and how Washington continues to add to our national debt without taking the proper steps to control spending."
The attitude was cost-savings, now, according to Graham, taxpayers should be thinking about helping people in need. "Whatever it costs, it costs."
The bill under discussion would have provided for $60.4 billion in supplemental disaster assistance but Republicans in Congress balked and said it was loaded with "pork."
(To put that Sandy relief amount in perspective, that's less than the amount that Americans spend on their pets last year.) 

There were unnecessary delays when House Speaker Boehner tabled the bill. Eventually, thanks only to the Democrats, Congress approved of the relief package. Ten billion had been shaved off but 91 days after the hurricane roared through,
President Obama was finally able to sign the Hurricane Sandy relief bill.

At the time, it was hard not to look at those events in Washington and see how partisanship has made even the most necessary and honorable and compassionate acts completely impossible.

People might understand this kind of parsimony a little better however if there were some degree of consistency. Alas that's not the case. 

How Soon We Forget
When Senator Graham was confronted by CNN's Wolf Blitzer and asked to explain the differences between New Jersey and South Carolina, Graham- who described himself as "a pretty kind-hearted fellow" simply said he couldn't recall the vote. That event plum' slipped his mind, by Hickory.
"I'm all for helping the people in New Jersey. I don't really remember me voting that way,"
He seems all for helping people but only when they don't need it. Wolf had him by the neck and wasn't about to let go. When asked again, Graham could only add:
"Anyway, I don't really recall that, but I'd be glad to look it and tell you why I did vote no, if I did."
That's a mighty peculiar thing for any representative in Washington to say. "If I did"?
The Congressional record is, as Graham well knows, transcribed the vote and easily accessed. You'd think voting on $60 billion of spending would have left some trace of memory in his mind.   

Unfortunately for Mr. Graham, the record shows that 36 Republican Senators and the 67 members of the House of Representatives voted "no." True to their party, false to the spirit of government.

But Graham was not the only South Carolinan politician who voted no to providing much needed aid to New Jersey hurricane victims.
We can find on the list Joe Wilson (R-SC) a man who became infamous for shouting "You lie" at the president during a health care speech. Also there was Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) who is so far only famous for crusading against Planned Parenthood and then there is the fruitless scandal-searcher-Trey Gowdy (R-SC).
(Really, South Carolina voters, what were you thinking putting people like that in Washington to represent you?)

The complete list of House members- all Republicans- can be found here. The Senators, (including the forgetful Graham) who voted to deny assistance after Sandy can be found here.

The Roll Call of Hypocrisy
As Think Progress noted in January 2013,   many of those nay-saying Republican Senators proved themselves to be the worst kind of hypocrites.
At least 31 of the no-votes came from Republicans who had previously supported emergency aid efforts following disasters in their own states.
To give a couple of examples from that list of shame:
  • James Inhofe (R-OK): Boasted of obtaining disaster relief after severe storms and drought
  • Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Republican Minority Leader: Requested disaster relief during a drought and after tornadoes
  • Marco Rubio (R-FL): Requested disaster relief after severe freezing. 
  • John Cornyn (R-TX), Republican Minority Whip: Demanded drought relief aid and requested disaster aid for wildfires.
The article notes too that Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) endorsed disaster relief for snow storms damages in Arkansas just four days before casting his “nay” vote.
Two Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) had sought disaster aid for their own states for relief from Hurricane Sandy yet voted no to giving aid to New Jersey, much harder hit. Ayotte was particularly outspoken the New Hampshire’s junior senator Ayotte said the bill was "too liberal" (Yeeks!) and "costly." She called it "an excuse for a spending spree."   

But then, those Senators and House Representatives probably- like Lindsey Graham- don't remember how they voted, only that they stood with their party, and against people who needed their help.
Today, Graham- when his state needs help- shows his more sensitive side. He told Blitzer  that he tries "to be there for friends and neighbors, so hope they'll be there for us."

You might think that instead of conveniently forgetting how he voted, Lindsey might just take away a valuable lesson about being a good neighbor. 
He might remember what his good mother taught him about treating others the way you would want to be treated. Something that used to be instilled in most children.

Being a good neighbor is a two-way street, and especially when that street is three feet under water.