Let’s forget about partisan politics for a moment. Let’s not focus on taxes, the economy, or foreign policy right now. Let’s not even discuss the candidates’ plans for FEMA and disaster relief. Let’s just look at one of the most important aspects of the presidency: leadership.
This is Mitt Romney’s version of leadership during Sandy. I realize that he was not in a position to send any kind of federal help or really do anything. In all honesty, President Obama’s actions during Sandy really could win him the election — the nation saw him acting as the President and showing true leadership in a crisis situation.
Romney, though, made a crucial misstep. The day after Sandy pummeled the East Coast, the Romney campaign transformed their campaign event into a relief event. The campaign encouraged supporters to bring canned food, non-perishables, diapers, etc. to be donated to the Red Cross.
Here’s the problem — the Red Cross doesn’t want any of that. It’s a natural, very human reaction to want to donate food and other necessary items to relief organizations. As individuals, we may very well want to do that and organize community-wide food drives to help those in need. But the Red Cross specifically says on their website that in most cases, they do not accept any donations other than cash. When you donate a lot of other items — food, clothing, water, etc. — the Red Cross has to put staff members on the ground to sort through it, to make sure it’s good, to organize where it needs to go. That takes a lot of manpower they could be using in the field.
It is entirely understandable for individuals to make a mistake like this. The desire to collect food and donate it comes from the right place, but it’s not the right thing to do in most cases. That’s why we need leadership.
Mitt Romney’s response to Sandy was a complete failure in leadership. Not only did he collect thousands of dollars of food (for a photo-op, no less — but let’s not talk about that), but as a national candidate, he sent the message to thousands — millions — of other people in the United States that they should do that, too.
I understand that Governor Romney needed to do something for the face of his campaign. He needed to seem presidential in the wake of this storm, even though he had no presidential power to execute.
I can’t blame the governor for wanting to make a grand gesture, but when you’re running for an office that will require you lead the nation through natural disasters like this, you need to make sure you’re displaying strong leadership skills.
Mitt Romney didn’t. He could have used this time at the end of the campaign to focus on bipartisanism and come together, as President Obama did, to help those affected by Sandy.
If this is the type of leadership for which Governor Romney is so famous, then America is in trouble if he is elected.
This is true leadership. The President cancelled several days of campaigning so he could work with the governors of the states affected by Sandy. Pictured above is President Obama and New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie aboard Marine One. These two are political enemies. The vitriol with which Christie has spoken about the President and his policies over the last several months is astounding. Yet they came together to provide relief to New Jersey citizens.
This is what leadership is about. We can argue about politics, and the economy, and whether or not gays should be allowed to marry all we want, but the job of the President is to be a leader. Not just the leader of his party. Not just the President of the Democrats. Not just the President of the one percent. A leader does not write off 47% of the country just because it’s politically inconvenient. A leader works with his political enemies for good the nation.
Mitt Romney’s failure in leadership during this time is utterly astounding when compared to President Obama’s example of what the presidency actually means.