Clarence Page: FEMA vs. 'Romnesia'

BY CLARENCE PAGE Published: November 2, 2012
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Words have a way of coming back to haunt Mitt Romney, especially when he says them in front of television cameras.

As the nation braced itself for Hurricane Sandy to slam into the East Coast, Romney's campaign was busily issuing denials to clean up an impression left by last year's “severely conservative” Romney long before he recently was replaced by Moderate Mitt.

No, Team Romney insisted, their candidate does not really want to abolish the Federal Emergency Management Agency, even if his words make him sound like he does.

Confusing? Hey, we're talking about the newly restored Moderate Mitt, the candidate whose beliefs are like Chicago's weather: If you don't like 'em, just wait a few minutes.

The words in question were spoken at a June 2011 Republican primary debate in New Hampshire. When the former Massachusetts governor was asked by moderator John King of CNN whether he agreed with those who believe management of emergencies should be returned to the states, Romney not only agreed but went further. He would turn over as many functions as possible to private, profit-driven companies.

“Absolutely,” Romney said. “Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that's even better.”

Odd sentiments, perhaps, for the moderate one-term governor who fathered Massachusetts' state-run health insurance plan. But not for the rebranded “severely conservative” Mitt. He's the Romney who won the Republican presidential nomination and passionately plans to “repeal Obamacare,” the national health insurance plan that President Barack Obama based on Romneycare.

The Huffington Post resurrected and highlighted video of that old sound bite under the headline “Mitt Romney in GOP Debate: Shut Down Federal Disaster Agency, Send Responsibility to the States.” Team Romney immediately issued a clarifying statement. No, Romney would not abolish FEMA, the campaign assures us, although he still would not mind transferring an undisclosed amount of its functions — and, presumably, expenses — to the states.