AT LEAST two days late and several dollars short of being convincing, the Romney campaign has finally answered the question of where the Republican nominee for president stands on the need for FEMA, the federal agency coordinating relief efforts for victims of Superstorm Sandy with the affected states — the same question he was asked by reporters a dozen times on Monday.
“I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters,” Romney said in a statement presented by his campaign Wednesday.
“As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first responders who work tirelessly to help those in need, because states and localities are in the best position to get aid to the individuals and communities affected by natural disasters.”
Just when you thought Romney had finally settled on a persona to ride to Election Day, just when you thought he’d put the Etch a Sketch down for the last time, the former governor of Massachusetts walks back a previously stated and defended position on how “immoral” spending for federal disaster relief was. And he does it six days before the election.
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BUT AS surely as that’s likely to be another last-minute deception, the latest shiny objects from Team Romney, there was another deception that was painstakingly deliberate. If you believed the increasingly desperate RomneyRyan campaign couldn’t get more cynical and out of touch, McKay Coppins put that to rest today in an eye-opening BuzzFeed story about Romney’s “storm relief event” in Kettering, Ohio.
What was first reported (and at first blush generally appeared to be) a seemingly earnest but misguided effort at citizen outreach and assistance in the wake of the deadly storm turned out to be more orchestrated, more fabricated than we’d have thought possible. Even for Mitt Romney.
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From Dayton, Ohio, Coppins tells the story:
On Monday morning, Romney's local team in Dayton was eagerly preparing to host the candidate the following day. A high school gym had been reserved, a stage had been rented, and a pair of celebrity guests — country singer Randy Owen and NASCAR driver Richard Petty — had been booked to give the event some B-list heft.
Then, a little before noon, communications director Gail Gitcho announced the cancellation of “all events currently scheduled” for Tuesday. The superstorm that forecasters had been warning about for days had picked up steam ... In a statement, Gitcho said the decision to cancel campaign events had been made “out of sensitivity to the millions of Americans in the path of Hurricane Sandy.”
But Boston wasn’t quite ready to lose a full day of swing state visibility with a week left in the race. So, after some deliberation, the campaign decided to use their existing venue in Ohio to stage a makeshift and nonpartisan humanitarian project. …
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[O]n the ground in Dayton, aides were working feverishly to depoliticize the planned event. Campaign signs were removed from the premises, long rows of folding tables were set up, and logistics were painstakingly arranged to accomodate physical donations. ...
The plan was for supporters to bring hurricane relief supplies to the event and then deliver the bags of canned goods, packages of diapers, and cases of water bottles to the candidate, who would be perched behind a table along with a slew of volunteers and his Ohio right-hand man, Senator Rob Portman. To complete the project and photo op, Romney would lead his crew in carrying the goods out of the gymnasium and into the Penske rental truck parked outside.