► Was President Obama responsible for Hurricane Irene and its destructive path along the east coast of the United States? In the minds of some Republicans that's the way it seems.
Even before the storm made landfall, conservative politicians were raising questions about the funding of federal disaster relief as if the president had concocted a new liberal scheme. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor insisted that before money was spent to assist citizens whose homes and businesses were damaged by high winds or flooding, cuts had to be made elsewhere in the federal budget. Texas Republican Ron Paul said he opposed any disaster relief at all.
Joined by right-wing radio personality Rush Limbaugh, Republicans suggested the president welcomed the catastrophe as an excuse to increase the size of government by turning loose the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The New York Times reported that insurance industry analysts estimated the cost of Irene to be as high as $10 billion. They ranked the storm in the top ten among disasters. Hearing this news, would representatives Cantor and Paul step forward to offer budget-balancing cuts in federal money allocated for their states? So far, silence on that one.
► A week before Irene hit the coast, President Obama and his family went on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, a favorite leisure spot for rich people. Republicans no doubt noticed the president’s impeccable timing. He and the wife and kids made it back to the safety of the White House several days before the hurricane smacked the east coast. Conservatives earlier had criticized the president for taking a vacation at a posh resort when the unemployment rate was in the neighborhood of 9 or 10 percent. Perhaps looking to make amends, the Obamas have begun planning for next year’s retreat. Their top choice is to spend a few days on the banks of the colorful Cuyahoga River, which drains into Lake Erie at Cleveland. No one vacations there so Secret Service protection will be easy. Pictures of grumpy-faced Obama daughters sitting on the banks watching effluent float by will endear them to the unemployed.
► Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry has criticized President Obama for never serving in the military. The Texas governor said the president didn’t enlist even though he had the option to do so. Instead, Obama attended Occidental College, Columbia University, and Harvard Law School, where he was editor of the Harvard Law Review.
Perry served in the U.S. Air Force between 1972 and 1977, flying C-130 transport planes in non-combat missions.
Obama was 16 in 1977, but he later worked as a community organizer, civil rights lawyer and professor of law at the University of Chicago. Earlier this year in his role as commander in chief the president oversaw a successful raid by U.S. special forces that killed Osama Bin Laden. Some top military commanders had preferred a risk-free air attack. But according to knowledgeable sources, Obama overruled them because he wanted certainty about the outcome.
► Now that it looks like Muammar el-Qaddafi has been defeated by rebels in Libya, Republicans are criticizing President Obama for the limited U.S. role in the action. Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham said that the battle to depose Qaddafi should have taken less than the five and a half months it did. The Obama administration provided air and logistical support to Libyan rebels at a cost of about a billion dollars, leaving most of the action up to NATO allies such as France and Italy, both just a short airplane hop from the shores of Tripoli. McCain and Graham said they would have preferred the use of the full force of U.S. air power much like what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan. A third trillion-dollar war would have given the U.S. a foothold on an additional continent. Like Gov.Perry of Texas, McCain and Graham are military veterans and have superior knowledge of the strategies and geopolitical implications of war.