Don’t get me wrong. Like most Americans, politics was the last thing on my mind as I waited to hear from my daughter, who lost power and cell service Monday night, along with millions of other Americans, and was trying to figure out what to do and where to go with a roommate and two kittens. In a crisis, we’re all Americans first, and if that shuts off this campaign for a few days, it’s probably the only positive from this storm.
President Barack Obama is being the president, which is obviously what matters right now. He was up most of Monday night, along with the rest of us, the big difference being that he could do more than worry. By morning, the papers had been signed clearing the way for much-needed federal help to the hardest-hit areas.
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, one of President Obama’s harshest political critics, had only positive things to say about the president’s being “all over” the crisis and deserving credit for that. As he should. The people of New Jersey don’t want to hear about politics right now. They want their governor to put that aside and do everything he can to help them.
The first rule in a crisis like this, which Christie got without needing an entire phalanx of political pros around him, is that you put politics aside. That is to say, whatever you may be thinking in your heart of hearts with the election only days away, the last thing you want to do is look political.
So why didn’t someone tell Mitt Romney? And if they did, why didn’t he listen?
While my daughter was figuring out what to do, while I was waiting for the phone to ring, while storm victims and friends and relatives and anyone with a TV set turned on was trying to figure out how we dig out of this mess, Romney was on his way to Ohio to pack up some boxes of food to send to New Jersey.
Now, there is nothing wrong with packing up supplies for those who have been hit by this storm. That is a very good thing to do. But traveling to Ohio with a planeload of reporters and Secret Service agents and the rest to pack boxes of supplies?
Why not just leave your house in Massachusetts, where 290,000 households were without power on Tuesday morning? Or go to a shelter near your other house in New Hampshire, where another 210,000 households are without power? That’s a half-million households right there, all within driving distance.
Why fly all the way to Ohio — where no households are without power — to help?
Excuse me, but isn’t Ohio the state that no Republican gets elected president without carrying? Actually, it is. What an amazing coincidence. Could you be any more obvious?
On the day after the storm made groundfall, there was one guy who was looking political, and his name is Mitt Romney. Either no one around him dared speak truth to power, or he wasn’t listening. And that, to me, is even worse than the cuts the Paul Ryan budget would make to the Federal Emergency Management Agency — if you really want to think about politics.
Don’t get me wrong, most of us don’t. But what else is there to think about when you see Romney with those boxes in Dayton, Ohio?
— Bestselling author Susan Estrich is the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Law Center and was campaign manager for 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Click here to contact her.