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Continued need for federal aid

Wednesday, November 07, 2012 - Updated: 7:10 PM

This is politics: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie shows up at a Republican function in late October and bashes President Barack Obama as someone who's "clutching for the light switch of leadership."

This is real life: Barely a week later Christie goes on national TV to praise Obama, saying, "I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern and compassion for our state." Why the abrupt change?

Because superstorm Sandy had slammed into New Jersey and much of the Northeast with horrific force, killing dozens of people, destroying homes, crippling transit, shutting off electricity and leaving a swath of destruction that demands the most heroic relief and rebuilding efforts the nation can muster.

New Jersey doesn't have nearly enough resources -- from money to qualified personnel -- to do that right now. Neither do New York, Connecticut or the other badly damaged states.

So Christie, other governors and mayors of affected communities are looking to the entity best suited to rush in and help in times of crisis.

It's called the federal government.

While criticizing most everything that Washington does these days is a popular activity, its size and reach are crucial during national disasters.

Compassionate, knowledgeable leadership helps, too. Obama and the federal forces he leads displayed that quality early on in the wake of Sandy.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency quickly moved badly needed power generators into many affected areas, helped with emergency transit and brought in massive amounts of water and pre-packaged meals.

Given the tremendous extent of the damage, emergency responders were still scrambling over the weekend to restore electricity to many people in New York City and New Jersey, and get sufficient amounts of gasoline to the Northeast.

Talk of self-sufficiency and states' rights make for nice sound bites when the sun is shining.

But Joplin residents found out after a tornado ripped through their city in 2011, it's far better to have national, state and local public employees ready to respond.

In Sandy's aftermath, the Red Cross, other nonprofit groups and utility crews from around the country have provided excellent assistance.

Still, natural disasters tend to show Americans we're all in this together. It's encouraging that an empathetic president has helped lead a massive federal response to the megastorm.

-- The Kansas City Star


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