Why do politicians visit the aftermaths of natural disasters?
I consider it one step short of those idiotic weather people who stand in the midst of a gale so we can watch them get battered to and fro before they duck back into the relative safety of their hotel rooms. They might be idiots, but at least they can claim the advantage of firsthand experience.
Okay, I understand the PR value a politician gains from arriving on the scene after the fact and getting caught on camera consoling strangers with whom he or she never otherwise would have any contact. It looks good to the general public and the voters. They gain sympathy by association just for having the hurricane-ravaged downtown district of Pigsknuckle, NC, behind them when they tell the press about understanding the people's pain. Yeah, right.
While Farmer Brown over there lost his crops, livestock and barn to the twister that rolled through yesterday afternoon, the politicians will drop in for a 20-minute briefing with the local mayor and a sight-seeing tour to gawk at the damaged Piggly Wiggly before rolling back to the state capital in their chauffered limousines.
It's a blip on their calendars and a few extra dollars from the till to repair some roads. Maybe a form or two that a staffer fills out to request some Federal aid.
And how practical is this VIP visit to the people who remain behind?
"Hey, Jimmy! A brush fire took out the old folks home, a tornado sucked the roof off the high school, and the creek flood washed away the Children's Hospital. But guess what? The governor's coming to town!"
If I'd just lost my home and family dog to a 120-mile-per-hour wind gust, would I really feel like entertaining visitors? I tend to doubt it. Chances are I'd be too busy trying to pick up the pieces, literally. If the governor really wants to help, maybe she could bring a bunch of Hefty bags and a shovel.
© 2011 Mark Feggeler