This week in hypocrisy: Republicans plead for the federal aid they love to hate

    Standing water closes roads in Sorrento

    Standing water closes roads in Sorrento

    The letter, signed by three Louisiana Republican lawmakers, is addressed to “The Honorable Barack Obama.” You gotta laugh. Now that they need umpteen billions in federal aid to cope with a major climate disaster, now that they’re pleading with hats in hand, all of a sudden Obama is “Honorable.”

    This is an old behavioral pattern, freshened anew by the latest infusion of hypocrisy. It’s always amazing how Republicans’ ideological hatred of “big government,” their abstract nanny-state boilerplate, gets trashed in a flash when real life floods in.

    Back in January 2013, those three Louisiana Republicans — congressmen Steve Scalise (now the House majority whip), Bill Cassidy (now a senator), and John Fleming — invoked “fiscal conservatism” when Congress crafted a $50-billion aid package for the New Jersey and New York victims of Hurricane Sandy. The Louisianans said that victims shouldn’t get the money unless cuts were made elsewhere in the budget. That dispute, driven by the right-wingers, delayed the aid for weeks. The right-wingers refused to endorse the longstanding principle that Washington helps victims of disaster whatever the cost. And when the Sandy package finally passed, the Louisianans voted against it. As did 176 other House Republicans. Only one Democrat voted No.

    But sure enough, now that Louisiana has been hit with the latest climate disaster — one key manifestation of climate change is more frequent, and more frequently severe, storms — those three Louisiana Republicans are suddenly in love with Washington largesse. The letter to Obama pleads for “vital federal resources in an expedited manner … to ensure the safety of our citizens.”

    Federal aid to the Louisiana victims could tally in the tens of billions, just like Sandy — but now Scalise says, “My top priority is making sure that aid is available to everyone who has been affected by the devastating flooding.” And Fleming tells a Baton Rouge newspaper that he doesn’t even care if moochers get some of the federal money: “Even though I’m a conservative and I’m very fiscally conservative, I think that [aid to everyone who asks for it] is the right thing to do. I would rather see people get money they don’t deserve than people who deserve money who don’t get it.”

    None of them have said a peep about opposing the aid unless cuts can be made elsewhere in the federal budget. But that’s no surprise. As I like to say, one definition of a big-governmet liberal is a conservative who’s hit with a climate disaster in his own backyard.

    We’ve seen this hypocrisy so often, it’s getting tiresome. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina senator, voted against the Sandy aid package — but last October, after his state suffered devastating floods, he pleaded for an open federal spigot and said that taxpayers nationwide should write a blank check: “Rather than put a price tag on it, let’s just get through this thing, and whatever it costs, it costs.”

    Again, not a peep about requiring cuts elsewhere in the budget.

    The flip-flop list is ever-lengthening. Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton voted against the Sandy money — but last year, when his state was hit with floods, he pleaded for federal aid. Ted Cruz voted against the Sandy money, but when his state was hit with floods, he turned on a dime. Four Colorado Republicans voted against the Sandy money, but when their state was flooded later in ’13, they boasted about the federal bucks they brought home. Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn voted in ’11 not to refund the Federal Emergency Management Agency — he said that doing so would be “unconscionable” — but when his state was hit with devastating tornados in ’13, he said: “I can assure Oklahomans that any and all available [FEMA] aid will be delivered without delay. They have some expertise that most states can’t afford to have.”

    One other thing. When we tally the devastating Louisiana floods, the devastating Texas floods in April, the devastating West Virginia floods in June, the devastating South Carolina floods last year … dare I suggest that there’s a pattern? That even though it’s tough to attribute a single weather event to climate change, it’s common sense to connect the dots linking these events? Along with the fact that July ’16 was “the highest temperature for any month on record,” and that 15 of the 17 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000?

    I bring this up because those Louisiana Republican lawmakers, who urged Obama to open the federal spigot, are notorious climate change deniers. For instance, Bill Cassidy said in ’14 that “global temperatures have not risen in 15 years,” which, as referenced in my previous paragraph, is downright Trumpian in its fakery. Back in ’12, John Fleming intoned on Facebook that climate change, “to the the extent that it ever existed, halted 16 years ago.” That’s the kind of junk that trolls type in their sleep.

    But luckily for them, their ignorance and hypocrisy is of little importance. Their devastated citizens will likely get the requisite federal aid to begin rebuilding their lives. That’s what truly matters. As Lindsey Graham said, in the midst of his conversion, “Whatever it costs, it costs.” Real life trumps anti-government rhetoric every time.

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

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