by Scott Lilly
It’s late August. The Republicans are having their national convention. A huge tropical storm is bearing down on the U.S. Gulf Coast. So what’s new? We have had major hurricanes bearing down on the United States during four of the past six Republican conventions: Andrew in 1992, Frances in 2004, Gustav in 2008, and this year, Isaac.
But the Republican problem with hurricanes seems to go well beyond convention timing. A number of hurricanes have erupted into huge political issues, and it has almost always been at the expense of Republican candidates. This is not a coincidence: Republicans seem determined to underfund, undermanage, and understaff the government agencies that respond to hurricanes, putting lives and property at risk, as well as their political careers.
Hurricane Andrew became a major factor in former President George H.W. Bush’s re-election effort. After leaving numerous vacancies at the Federal Emergency Management Agency unfilled during his term as president, President Bush was slow to react when Andrew, the most expensive hurricane in American history (at that time), crashed ashore a few days after the 1992 Republican convention concluded in Houston. Agencies that had prepared for the storm were not called into action, ...