HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
May 21, 2007, Herald Journal

Using disaster for a cheap shot

By ROZ KOHLS

In the beginning of May, a huge wedge tornado devastated the small town of Greensburg, Kans., population 1,500. At least eight people died, and 95 percent of the city was destroyed.

Kathleen Sebelius, the Democratic governor of the state, decided to take advantage of this tragedy to needle President Bush. She claimed that the Kansas National Guard is missing vital equipment because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it can’t respond adequately to the six southwest Kansan counties hit by tornadoes.

Usually, the state has approximately 75 percent of its equipment at any given time, but it currently has about 45 percent, Sebelius said May 7 on CNN.

US Sen. Barack Obama, D.-Ill., a contender for president, made a similar claim. He misstated the death toll as 10,000 at the same time. No one knows where he got that number.

They’re both wrong, though.

Randall Noller, public affairs officer for the National Guard Bureau, said May 7 the Kansas National Guard has 88 percent of its forces available, and 60 percent of its Army Guard equipment on hand. It also has 85 percent of its Air Guard equipment available.

In addition, Kansas has a national sharing agreement with other states. If Kansas was short-handed in any way, it could have asked for assistance. No one bothered to ask, Noller said.

Once people knew that Sebelius was making things up in order to politicize a natural disaster, she backpedaled, fast and furiously. A couple days later, one of her spokespersons said “We are doing absolutely fine right now; what the governor is talking about is down the road.”

Obama made a statement even more offensive and exploitative. He compared the Virginia Tech massacre of 32 innocent people, and the “verbal violence” of Don Imus’ insulting reference to a women’s college basketball team, to the outsourcing of jobs to other countries.

If words are the equivalent of violence, they can be outlawed in the same way. Hasn’t Obama heard of the First Amendment?

There’s also nothing remotely violent about making a business decision to seek employees where labor is cheaper. Are the poor people in India, China or Africa, who are taking the outsourced jobs, equally as guilty of committing “violence” as the perpetrator at Virginia Tech was?

Sebelius has been mentioned as a possible nominee for vice president, if the presidential nominee is a male.

These two grandstanding politicians would make quite a pair.