Media’s Hype of Sandy and Obama’s Subtle Politicization of It

Hurricane Sandy has come and gone with a much less terrifying roar than the media had everybody fearing. So monstrous would this storm be that it was given the nickname Frankenstorm, its predicted damage bearing strong resemblance to the synopsis of the disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow.

Yes, forty people have died from the storm, and it’s a shame they did not heed warnings to evacuate. But it’s far fewer deaths than seemed to be feared in the hysteria leading up to Sandy’s landfall. If these deaths were the main topic of every news program on TV, I would not be complaining.

As it stands, however, all of the reporting has been on the moderate flooding, mild to moderate damage to property, power outages, some fires that have been put out, and just an overall messiness; nothing that isn’t dealt with at least once per Floridian summer.

How about this: Local stations in Virginia and Maryland, where some trees and shingles were misplaced, will leave the reporting on the storm to the national news channels and the local stations in New Jersey and New York, where the brunt of the damage was dealt. That’s a good compromise, right?

Both the Obama and Romney campaigns are being praised for putting campaigning aside, but I’m not so sure Obama isn’t politicizing Sandy.

While Mitt Romney was organizing a fundraiser purely for disaster relief, donating one of his campaign buses to the cause of delivering goods to the hardest-hit areas, the President gave an ostensibly benign speech yesterday at the Red Cross national headquarters:

“We are going to continue to push as hard as we can to make sure that power is up throughout the region, and obviously this is mostly a local responsibility and the private utilities are going to have to lean forward…but we are doing everything we can to provide them additional resources so that we can expedite getting power up and running in many of these communities.”

 The emphasis on the word “forward” was Obama’s own, isolating the word by pausing afterwards before continuing. What sense does that clause make? “Private utilities are going to have to learn forward.” What does that even mean, that a company has to lean forward? I don’t know what it means, but the reader will note that “Forward,” of course, is Obama’s campaign slogan. The only explanation I can see for such an odd, nonsensical clause is subliminal product placement of the Obama brand.

The hurricane is over. Reporting on the damage incessantly doesn’t change anything; it only needs reporting once. Report on the deaths, clean up the mess, and get back to coverage of an election that will ultimately be far more consequential than a category-1 hurricane.