by Todd Beeton, Sat Oct 27, 2007 at 02:40:05 PM EDT
As I wrote on Wednesday, as fires devastated Southern California this week, Democratic presidential candidates used their websites and e-mail lists to express concern for the victims of the fires and disseminate information on how to help them; the Republicans, on the other hand, were conspicuously silent on the matter, revealing what we already knew: when it comes to compassion, there is a left/right divide.
Turns out this fact wasn't lost on the media. From The San Francisco Chronicle:
...none of the leading GOP presidential candidates offered formal public condolences or expressions of concern for the fire-damaged state until Thursday - four days after wind-whipped blazes caused an estimated 500,000 to be evacuated in Southern California.
Even Republicans had to admit it was embarrassing. Said prominent California GOP blogger, Jon Fleischman:
"How candidates and officeholders react in the midst of a tragedy tells you a lot about whether they are focused on themselves, or on the people around them," he wrote.
The GOP candidates were put on the defensive and, as The Chron puts it, were "forced into damage control mode."
The campaign of Mitt Romney sent out a statement noting that the former Massachusetts governor has acknowledged the fires, noting this week that his son, Matt, had been evacuated from his home in Rancho Bernardo. The candidate's wife, Ann Romney - who was in California on Tuesday as fires raged - posted a comment on Thursday, and her son wrote a brief blog about his evacuation experience.
But Romney didn't issue a formal expression of concern. Neither did former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani until Thursday, when his Web site posted this statement: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by the wildfires in California. The firefighters are performing an absolutely heroic effort as they face dangerous and unpredictable conditions."
His campaign included a link to the American Red Cross for donations to fire victims.
Asked why McCain - although he is planning a fundraiser in the state - has not publicly acknowledged the fires, spokesman Brian Rogers said, "The senator obviously cares a lot about the people of California and feels for their loss. And we do have something up on our campaign Web site that calls on folks to contribute."
Now if you go to some of the candidates' websites, they do have prominently placed links to The Red Cross and an acknowledgement that the disasters occured, although I must say, I'm somewhat surprised to find Mike Huckabee, ya know, the minister, not among them. Instead, he still has the link to his interview with Glen Beck (the guy who said some of those losing their homes in Southern California hate America) and an unfortunate choice of a headline -- "The Heat Is On!" -- linking to a post about recent attacks on Huckabee.
I mean, at least when Obama sent out an invitation to his Los Angeles office opening (which is tomorrow by the way) with an ill-timed reference to his stump speech staple "All Fired Up!", the campaign quickly changed course.
Once it was clear a disaster was unfolding, the wording was changed and the block party plans dropped, she says. Instead, those attending the office opening are being asked to bring clothing and non-perishable food to donate to fire victims.
The fact is, it's a wonder any of the candidates deigned to express any modicum of compassion for the victims, but it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that they were late to the disaster response table. It seems to run in their party.
Karen Finney, spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, said of the Republicans' glaring lag in recognizing California's woes: "Haven't we already had enough of a president who is slow to respond to a crisis?"