President Obama declared an emergency in the State of Georgia and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions stemming from a severe winter storm. Yes, in the state where many think he is the Devil and where the Governor said he would ask for Obama’s birth certificate, it is Obama who has had to step in to fill in where the Republican Governor Nathan Deal failed.
After birther Governor Nathan Deal pretended like he had no access to weather predictions and was incapable of coordinating with other states in order to borrow equipment like salt trucks, a snow storm effectively stopped Georgia in its tracks. Motorists in Atlanta were stranded for up to 12 hours on the freeway. People slept in their cars.
It was reminiscent of the way George W Bush tried to act as if no one had ever warned officials about the impending disaster. In 2001, the Houston Chronicle warned that a severe hurricane striking New Orleans “would strand 250,000 people or more, and probably kill one of 10 left behind as the city drowned under 20 feet (6.1 m) of water.”
The President’s Georgia Emergency Declaration does the following, per a White House statement:
The President’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the counties of Banks, Barrow, Bartow, Carroll, Catoosa, Chattooga, Cherokee, Clarke, Cobb, Dade, Dawson, DeKalb, Douglas, Elbert, Fannin, Floyd, Forsyth, Franklin, Fulton, Gilmer, Gordon, Gwinnett, Habersham, Hall, Haralson, Hart, Jackson, Lincoln, Lumpkin, Madison, Murray, Oconee, Oglethorpe, Paulding, Pickens, Polk, Rabun, Stephens, Towns, Union, Walker, Walton, White, Whitfield, and Wilkes.
Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency. Emergency protective measures, limited to direct federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent federal funding.
Governor Deal did finally admit that “the state did not make preparations early enough to avoid the problems that occurred.” The state? He is the leader of the state. Where was he?
While this might seem like something that can happen to anyone, it seems to happen a lot to Republicans. Republicans also coincidentally don’t believe in government, let alone coordination within government, to help people — unless they are getting money from the feds (see above where Obama is helping to bail out the state from Deal’s willful incompetence).
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution laid it out:
Gov. Nathan Deal’s delay in taking charge during Tuesday’s snow catastrophe triggered a series of cascading failures, leaving hundreds of thousands of motorists abandoned and desperate for food, water and shelter.
With no one at the helm, dozens of local agencies took their own myopic approaches, barely communicating with each other, much less the imperiled public.
The state’s multi-million dollar electronic sign system flashed useless messages at trapped drivers. The state’s mobile app, which is supposed to give up-to-the-minute updates on road conditions, gave wrong information about road clearing. Police stood by as cars blocked intersections. Calls to 911 were answered by an automated “all circuits are busy” message.
Does this sound familiar? From the AJC:
“We kept waiting and waiting, and I was thinking, ‘Surely someone is going to send a plow or help,'” said Renae Parent, who got stuck on a sheet of ice on the downtown connector trying to return from Sandy Springs to her Grant Park home.
It’s not that it’s time to be snarky, as it’s a bit like ambulance chasing to politicize an accident or tragedy. No entity is perfect and no official is going to get it right all of the time. But there is a larger point to be made here, and that is that when you don’t like government and don’t believe in it, you tend to not be so great at utilizing it for things like averting disaster, planning for disaster, cooperation with other states, and things of this nature.
We have plenty of Republicans in executive offices who aren’t extremists and do their jobs well when it comes to disaster planning. But it’s also fair to note that the far right governors tend to not engage in planning ahead and cooperation with other agencies as well as they should. They have that cowboy/Ayn Rand fantasy of everyone pulling themselves up through a snowstorm/category 5 hurricane/etc by their own bootstraps, and that fantasy just isn’t realistic.
Nathan Deal demonized President Obama in order to get elected, including giving air to the clearly racist conspiracy that Obama is not a legitimate President. But ever the non-petty leader, Obama is riding to the rescue with the big government that Republicans only seem to believe in when they need cash for their buddies or to be bailed out from their willful refusal to use government resources to avert disaster.
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.