People in Weber County know one thing for sure today: Gov. Gary Herbert won’t be standing in the sandbag line with them.
Herbert could have stayed in his Capitol office Tuesday to deliver his message to the people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps as flood waters threaten. Why did he bother traveling north for a lame photo op? … Oh, perhaps because it was a photo op.
“We can’t do anything for you, and we won’t” seems to be the talking point for Republican governors elected in 2010. They’ll serve you a cup of tea, but the first thing Herbert said was that flooding is a matter for local governments, and you’d also better get your neighbors to help.
Herbert talked about a state emergency response operation, but it’s not clear how useful that might be if, as he said, local governments and your neighbors are your best hope.
Truly, I have no quarrel with Herbert if he’s genuinely acting as a conservative governor who isn’t going to spend more money, even in disaster times, and honestly believes that he’s holding the line on a limited state role. People understand that, and it’s a popular position in these tea-soaked times. The discordant part is that Herbert felt compelled to travel to the scene to lecture the locals in person about how to practice self-dependence during calamities. The footage won’t make a good campaign ad in 2012 – “Governor Herbert rushes to the scene to tell flooded residents they’re totally screwed.” Unless the trip was to build cover for the blowback the state probably will get when the floods rip apart Utah this month and Herbert can’t or won’t do anything meaningful about it.
Meantime, Sen. Orrin Hatch, who’s been sucking up to the Tea Party like a wino in a booze storeroom, nevertheless has turned to the federal government. He’s sent a stern letter to FEMA to make sure the feds will help. That part of the federal government must be OK to tap for funds.
In January, in a deftly written press release, Hatch’s staff claimed credit for getting FEMA to help after flooding hit southern Utah. FEMA’s help costs actual money — federal money, taxpayers’ money — but the release mentioned nothing about the expense.