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August 27, 2012 at 8:03 AM

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Storm tracker: Isaac and how Republicans would deal with natural disasters

Tropical Storm Isaac has blown west of Tampa, Fla., giving the Republican national convention a reprieve. Previously, the presidential hopeful Mitt Romney was going to have to compete with potential storm damage and injuries in Florida. The convention was scheduled to open on Monday, immediately recess and then reconvene on Tuesday.

Isaac could still cause significant damage on the Gulf Coast, where it is headed now. As this AP story points out, it is close to the 7th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

Republicans are probably now worried that it will remind the country of how the previous Republican president, George W. Bush, fumbled that crisis. At this point, Isaac is still just a tropical storm, with the potential for an upgrade to Category 1 hurricane.

Leadership during natural disasters hasn't been a campaign issue so far, but voters should pause to consider how the presidential candidates would fund FEMA and lead in a time of crisis. (Instead, we're running around buzzing over a Missouri senatorial candidate's comments on abortion and Ayn Rand.)

The biggest environmental disaster President Barack Obama has dealt with was the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Obama's handling was "meh." That was not purely a natural disaster, as the blame and cost of the cleanup mostly went to the oil company. But the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service, which regulated deep-water drilling, was clearly compromised, with regulators accepting gifts from oil and gas companies and negotiating jobs at the companies they were supposed to oversee. Here's a 2010 AP story that sums it up.

With Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, we can look to the budget of his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Ryan does not specifically call out FEMA funding in his 2012 budget proposal which he titled, "The Path to Prosperity." (This budget document was uploaded by the New York Times.) In it, Ryan clearly states the goal of "streamlining other government agencies" outside of the military. Here is an excerpt:

"Government spending on domestic departments and agencies has grown too much, too fast over the past decade, with much of the money going to programs and projects the nation can do without. This budget starts to restore spending discipline to a government that badly needs it by returning non-security discretionary spending to well below 2008 levels.

I give Obama the edge. It would be worse to cut funding to FEMA and the Minerals Management Service and FEMA. If there's funding, at least you can fire the incompetent regulators and hire better ones.

Here is an interactive storm tracker for Hurricane Isaac from the AP.

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