Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Germany: Obama and Sandy

Der Spiegel

Handling Hurricane Sandy Obama's Moment of Truth

By Sebastian Fischer

Even before the storm hit America's East Coast, President Barack Obama wanted to show that he's ready, that he can lead the country through this crisis. It was exactly eight days before the presidential election on Nov. 6.

"This is going to be a big and powerful storm," Obama said on Monday. He said he had spoken with the governors of all the affected states and that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had been put on alert. Food and water provisions were at the ready, he assured, adding that in times of crisis, America sticks together. The country was ready to handle this storm, he said.

This is the president as crisis manager. Obama is doing what Americans expect from a president when a massive storm like Sandy comes along: He is demonstratively setting politics aside and acting as the top catastrophe prevention official. When a reporter then asked him, "What about the impact on the election, sir?", the president answered soberly, unselfishly and energetically. "The election will take care of itself next week," he said. "Right now, our number-one priority is to make sure that we are saving lives … ."

His handling of the storm could determine the outcome of the election. "The hurricane will pose a huge test for Obama in the next few days, one that will make the debate in Denver look like child's play," writes Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, for US broadcaster CNN. Obama lost to Republican candidate Mitt Romney in Denver, giving his rival an unexpected boost in the campaign.

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