A Major, Yet Only Passing, Distraction
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
Mother Nature is a force no politician can control. As has been seen as well with Hurricane Harvey and continuing now with Hurricane Irma making political mileage out of Nature is a fool’s business. One needs only look at the politicians who voted against expending significant relief for the victims of Super Storm Sandy, because it was only a northeastern storm not a hurricane. Many of them, including Texas’ Senator Ted Cruz, now are scratching for every possible dollars of federal funding for the victims of this year’s hurricanes.
Sadly, as invariably happens when Congress is forced to act under crisis, the need to improve and revamp the entire federal hurricane insurance assistance program will once again not be addressed; despite the fact that it is right now awaiting congressional re-authorization. The premiums in this program are very small and the payouts are enormous. While the Federal Government needs to be the enabler and insurer of assistance to all those hit by natural disasters, it seems there ought to be a better system than one which appears to give identical coverage to all regardless of their means.
Similarly, if the Federal Government is doing the bailing out of natural disaster victims then it ought to be able to set conditions on reconstruction activity. The rebuilding of New Orleans again below sea level—despite the fact that Katrina cost over $100 billion–was a foolhardy financial waste. The Feds will be hit again with an even larger bill as, sadly, New Orleans is guaranteed to be destroyed again in the future by Mother Nature. In Houston, a synagogue that was rebuilt with some improvements but it the same location, only a few years ago after the last flood created severe damage, was destroyed even worse this time with five feet of water reported inside the building.
The media coverage of the hurricanes has been remarkable and unceasing. The electronic media demonstrated again its ability to excel in covering disasters; airplane crashes, assassinations, murders, or police activities. The problem with a natural disaster like hurricanes on television is that while they do present extensive coverage for the public to witness, how many times must television persist in showing the same pictures with the same experts saying the same thing all over again. Hurricanes move relatively slowly. Repetition is inevitable and excruciating. On the other hand, it is the advance preparation, disaster avoidance which is not very exciting where television could perform a noble service; but the visuals are boring and no one wants to listen.
Finally, as the nation focuses on Mother Nature and the damage it might, cause, Trump, North Korea, DACA, etc., all retreat from the public limelight. As the President will rapidly learn, however, this is only a temporary distraction and respite before the public’s focus will return to politics as usual.