Following up on Rebekah’s item earlier, deadly wildfires continue to spread in Colorado, and thousands are being forced from their homes. I’d hoped we could at least take some solace in the notion that the ongoing tragedy wouldn’t become the latest political football. After all, while some natural disasters have more political salience – the pathetic response to Hurricane Katrina, for example – this didn’t appear to be one of them.
So much for that idea. TPM’s Nick Martin reports that some conservatives have “looked for ways to blame it on President Obama.”
Some of the same people who have bashed the president as a big government, big spending liberal now say a wildfire that destroyed hundreds of homes in the conservative stronghold of Colorado Springs can be blamed on the president because he has been too slow to spend money to beef up the federal fleet of air tankers.
The meme began more than a week ago when pundit Michelle Malkin, who lives in Colorado Springs, wrote a piece for the National Review Online titled “Obama Bureaucrats Are Fueling Wildfires.”
“The Obama administration’s neglect of the federal government’s aerial-tanker fleet raises acrid questions about its core public-safety priorities,” she wrote.
Obama signed a bill to spend $24 million on new fire-fighting air tankers, but they’re not yet available to help in Colorado. And so, many on the right are pouncing, condemning the Obama administration for not spending enough money. When the subject came up during a press conference with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), the governor feigned bemusement: “Were these the same conservatives that were so worried about the Obama administration spending too much money, or were these different conservatives?”
There’s some question about whether these kinds of planes are even used to combat wildfires of this size, making the criticism misleading and crass at the same time.
But I’m also struck by the larger political dynamic. Mitt Romney just said he rejects the notion that the nation needs more firefighters, and the right responds by attacking Obama for not spending enough money on fire-fighting equipment? I realize every development everywhere is now subject to election-year politicization, but is this really necessary?
The president, incidentally, will be in Colorado today to meet with local officials and survey affected areas.