Here’s my new definition of a liberal: A conservative whose state has been devastated by a climate disaster.
When the killer storm flooded the red state of South Carolina, we knew it was only a matter of time before the knee-jerk foes of Big Guvmint would start begging for Big Guvmint bucks. Three, two, one…
Lindsey Graham, Republican senator and presidential candidate, told CNN on Monday night that he wants to open the federal spigot for his beleaguered Carolinians — and taxpayers nationwide should just pony up: “Rather than put a price tag on it, let’s just get through this thing, and whatever it costs, it costs.”
Whatever it costs, it costs… Gee. Whatever happened to fiscal conservatism — the mantra that Graham and his Republican brethren chanted when the citizens of the Northeast needed federal help in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy? Funny how the ideological abstractions vanish without a trace when life gets real in their own backyard.
When Sandy devastated somebody else’s backyard, Graham voted against federal relief aid for the victims. In fact, he was asked about that on CNN. I do cherish his response: “I don’t really remember me voting that way. Anyway, I don’t really recall that, but I’d be glad to look and tell you why I did vote no, if I did.”
Um, yes he did. Twice, in fact. Apparently one of the symptoms of hypocrisy is willful amnesia.
I’ll return to Graham in a moment. We shouldn’t just pick on him anyway, because he’s hardly the poster child for this kind of hypocrisy. It’s standard Republican (mis)behavior.
Tom Cotton, the Republican senator from Arkansas, voted against Sandy relief money – but two years later, he pleaded for federal money when his red state was hit by floods. Ted Cruz, the Texas performance artist, voted against Sandy relief money – but later pleaded for federal money when his red state was hit by floods. Four Colorado Republican lawmakers voted against Sandy relief money – but later that same year, they pleaded for federal money when their state was hit by floods…and boasted about it afterward.
But the Oklahoma senators are arguably my favorites.
In 2011, Tom Coburn and James Inhofe tried to wreck havoc with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Inhofe tried to cut the bucks for FEMA storm shelter programs, and when FEMA temporarily ran out of money, Coburn voted not to refund the agency. In fact, he said that refunding would be “unconscionable.” Then, in 2013, both guys voted against Sandy aid. And yet, when their own red state got hit by killer tornadoes later that year, they begged for federal aid. Here was Coburn: “As the ranking member of the committee that overseas FEMA, I can assure Oklahomans that any and all available aid will be delivered without delay. (FEMA folks) have some expertise that most states can’t afford to have…so there’s a legitimate role.”
South Carolina’s Republican delegation is doing the same dance now. None of those congressmen voted for the Sandy relief money – but they want their federal relief, pronto. House member Mick Mulvaney, prior to his No vote on Sandy, insisted that the relief money should be offset with cuts elsewhere in the federal budget. Does he think that his state’s relief money should first be offset by budget cuts elsewhere? Of course not he doesn’t. Now he’s saying: “There will be a time for a discussion about aid and how to pay for it, but that time is not now. The danger is still real.”
But we were talking about Lindsey Graham. Yesterday, he tried hard to mop up his hypocrisy.
First he told a reporter that when he was on CNN, he hadn’t understood Wolf Blitzer’s question. (Which was weird, because Wolf’s query was easily understandable: “Your critics are already saying that you want federal funding for the people of South Carolina, but you voted against a federal funding package for the folks in New Jersey during Hurricane Sandy.”) Then Graham told the reporter that, yes, he did remember voting No on Sandy aid, but that’s because it was a “porkfest.” (He was referring to the final relief package, which totaled $50 billion. He seems to have forgotten that he, and virtually all his fellow Senate Republicans, also voted No on a much smaller relief package totaling $9 billion.)
Spin it, Lindsey! But we all know the truth: Now that his own fiefdom is distressed, he’d willingly spend umpteen billions of federal lucre. Whatever it costs, it costs. Funny how all the nanny-state boilerplate gets dumped when real life floods in.