Everything in America is bigger than it is in England – including the weather. The US has responded to Hurricane Irene with characteristic fervour: millions of people evacuated, New York in darkness, sandbags everywhere and Fox News weathermen screaming “We’re all going to die!” How different it is in England, where the defining image of our effete floods is Doris from the Isle of Sheppey sitting on her roof clutching her cat in one hand and her Mantovani records in the other.
So it goes with politics. In a country where everything is exploited for votes, even a hurricane can get 15 minutes on Meet the Press. Donald Trump has led the charge by blaming the bad weather on President Obama. Here are some other classic all-American responses to hurricanes, ranked by political type.
1. The environmentalist: blame it on green house gasses. Hurricanes have been hitting America for centuries but, according to George Soros, they’ve gotten worse since people have been driving cars. But how does he expect people to evacuate without the use of their four-by-fours? Electric cars aren’t much help during a power cut.
2. The liberal: demand that the government does everything and anything to help. In the days following the hurricane, expect Democrats to petition for “reconstruction funds”. Most of the money will go on saxophone classes for deaf children in Denver, but that’s not the point.
3. The libertarian: demand that the government does nothing at all. Yes, Ron Paul has actually said that! He argues that in the good old days people survived disasters without federal assistance, and if we start rescuing people from hurricanes now we won’t discourage them from building their houses so close to the ocean.
4. The social conservative: blame the gays. Pat Robertson hasn’t done it yet, but it’s only a matter of time before he finds a link between Hurricane Irene and Queer as Folk. Some wag preempted the Christian Right’s response and tweeted: “Michele Bachmann on Hurricane Irene: Grab the nearest homo and use them to sandbag your homes.”
5. A Southern politician who won’t be named: go and help out with the clean-up and take the opportunity of the away-time from your wife to get your mistress pregnant. Enough said.
6. The President: pretend it isn’t happening. Washington DC was hit by an earthquake on Tuesday and Obama responded with characteristic disinterest. Nothing says “I care” like playing a round of golf in Martha’s Vineyard four hundred miles away. He finally flew home on Friday and we can expect a moving speech early next week about America’s boldness, the courage of small children and Martin Luther King Jr. It’s like this man doesn’t want to get re-elected.
It is indicative of how big the federal government has become materially and psychologically that it is expected to do something about anything that happens in the USA. Gone are the days when a hurricane would be treated as what it actually is – a terrible act of God. Now it’s a photo opportunity.
The best response, then, is undoubtedly Ron Paul’s. One can imagine Dr Paul is in his bunker right now, with ten thousand cans of beans and a shotgun. That’s the real spirit of America. Bring it on, Irene!