People whose lives have been destroyed by floods, hurricanes, and other natural disasters face a special kind of anguish. The things they trusted the most - the ground beneath their feet, and the sky above - have turned against them.
Their most personal spaces have turned to ruins, and their most precious belongings have been destroyed. Their private misery has become a public spectacle, as cameras in circling helicopters put them on display to the entire planet. Their world has betrayed them, and they feel they have nowhere left to turn.
That's why millions of people have offered support and compassion to the people of Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
It's also why politicians from areas hit by Hurricane Sandy five years ago have been right to point out the hypocrisy of Senator Ted Cruz and the other Texas Republicans who turned their backs on victims in their states.
All but one member of Cruz's Texas GOP delegation voted against aid for Sandy's victims. Now that their constituents are in need, they're singing a different tune.
Ted Cruz was the loudest and most aggressive Texas Republican who voted to deny aid for Sandy's victims. Now it's time for Cruz to step up, grow up, and admit he was wrong.
Calling Out Hypocrites
Some of Cruz's fellow Republicans have joined Democrats in calling out the "hypocrisy" of their Texas colleagues in the wake of Hurricane Harvey's assault on Texas. Rep. Steve King of Long Island tweeted:
Ted Cruz & Texas cohorts voted vs NY/NJ aid after Sandy but I'll vote 4 Harvey aid. NY wont abandon Texas. 1 bad turn doesnt deserve another.
New Jersey Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo tweeted that we "must stand together as Americans, not be hypocritical based on geography." And New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said,
The congressional members in Texas are hypocrites. Even though I'm sure there's going to be some temptation by New Jersey House members in particular to drag their feet a little bit based upon what these folks in Texas did to us during Sandy, I'm going to be urging all our members to rise above that and provide the aid as quickly as possible.
Cruz's Tenuous Claims
Cruz continues to lead his state's delegation in hypocrisy. On August 28, as Hurricane Harvey battered his state, Ted Cruz said this about the Sandy aid he rejected:
"The problem with that particular bill is it became a $50 billion bill that was filled with unrelated pork. Two-thirds of that bill had nothing to do with Sandy.”
He dismissed criticism from his fellow Republicans and others as "political sniping" and "the silliness of Washington." On Harvey, he said, "I have been spending day and night ... trying to marshal federal assets to save lives."
Cruz continued to argue that his vote against the Sandy aid bill was justified, because "I didn’t think it was appropriate to engage in pork-barrel spending, where two-thirds of that bill was unrelated spending that had nothing to do with Sandy.”
The Meaning of Pork
Tragedy has not diminished Ted Cruz's ability to deceive. By 3 a.m. the following morning, his comments had been thoroughly debunked by The Washington Post's Fact Checker column, which noted,
"it is wildly incorrect to claim that the bill was 'filled with unrelated pork.' The bill was largely aimed at dealing with Sandy, along with relatively minor items to address other or future disasters."
The terms "pork" and "pork barrel" refer to "government projects or appropriations yielding rich patronage benefits," according to Merriam-Webster. The implication is that the money's being spent for something that isn't needed.
The Congressional Research Service looked into the Sandy bill back in 2013, after Cruz and others made similar claims. Its report clearly shows that virtually all of its funding went to either "recovery and repair" from the Sandy disaster or "mitigation" efforts intended to address both Sandy and potential future disasters.
If Ted Cruz thinks that's "pork," he has a twisted view of government.
But then, that's the point, isn't it?
Grow Up, Ted
The modern Republican Party has been telling people that government should be diminished in all its forms, because it doesn't do anything useful. That's about as twisted as it gets.
Republicans in Congress have been cutting funds for the satellites that forecast extreme weather events, for disaster preparedness, and for other vital government services. They've even voted to cut funds for “Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies."
They don't believe in government until they need its help to rescue their constituents, and their careers.
It's time for Ted Cruz, who has led the Texas Republican delegation in doing the wrong thing, to lead by example. First, he needs to step and apologize for misleading the nation about the Sandy aid bill.
Then Cruz needs to grow up and recognize that government has a meaningful role to play in American life.
He needs to admit there are things that only government can do well. Those things include emergency disaster relief, but they also include the efforts needed to prevent or mitigate future disasters.
The Next Hypocrisy
To be sure, Cruz won't apologize, nor will any of the Republicans who voted against aid for the victims of Hurricane Sandy. But as we gear up for another budget battle, take note: The same selfish motives that guide Ted Cruz and other Texas Republicans in their approach to disaster aid will be on full display with other issues, and not just in the Lone Star State but among Republicans all across the country.
As we enter an era of accelerating climate change, we're going to see more disasters like Sandy and Harvey. Tragically, more people are likely to see the sky above them turn dangerous. Unfortunately, a lot of their politicians will remain dangerous too, until they're voted out of office.