Woody Allen used to tell a story about his father, who had a concession on the boardwalk where passing men tried to knock down a pyramid of milk bottles to win a prize for their girlfriends. One season, a hurricane struck, tearing up the boardwalk and destroying every edifice in sight — and the only things left standing were those little milk bottles.
Woody's dad, Mr. Konigsberg, I believe, never saw anything like Hurricane Sandy. For that matter, none of us has ever seen anything quite like it. Sure, there has been a history of hurricanes on the Eastern seaboard, but none that was 700 miles wide. The storm destroyed affluent and poor neighborhoods alike, turning beachfront mansions and inland row houses into rubble, proving that a hurricane has a definite liberal bias: Everyone shared in the misery.
News footage from New Jersey residents pleading for help from the government was really not that much different from the cries of people left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. There was sufficient warning of the storm's severity, so at least people had the chance to find a spot and hunker down. The most surprised creatures in the area were the tunnel rats in New York City's subways. As usual, a Pennsylvania evangelical minister, John P. McTernan, blamed the storm on gays but faulted both Obama and Romney, claiming "both candidates are pro-homosexual and are behind the homosexual agenda. ... The Holy God of Israel is systematically destroying America right before our eyes."
All this was predicted by the great clairvoyant Edgar Cayce over 90 years ago. Cayce, known as the "Sleeping Prophet," said in a 1936 reading about climate change: "Portions of the now East Coast of New York, or New York City itself, will, in the main, disappear. ... Watch New York, Connecticut, and the like. Many portions of the East Coast will be destroyed." Cayce also predicted a catastrophic pole shift in 1998 and Japan under water. However, the psychic also claimed that the Messiah would appear in Israel in 1999, so Cayce's prophesies are not entirely dependable.
If Cayce was known as the "Sleeping Prophet," I wish to be known as the "Slumbering Seer." Although I'm writing this two days before the election, I pretty much know what happened, and I don't believe they'll be remodeling the Oval Office any time soon. So, unless states with Republican governors, like Ohio and Florida, succeed in their plans to suppress the vote, it's the same as it ever was. Or, to quote the Who: "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."
There's nothing like a mammoth killer hurricane to focus your attention on what's important. The government's response was praised by elected officials from both parties, and to his everlasting credit, New Jersey governor Chris Christie suspended partisanship to work with the president on behalf of the storm's victims. Christie and Obama made an odd-looking duo, like a multiracial Laurel and Hardy. For Christie's cooperation with Obama, he was roundly criticized by members of his own party, but I'll bet a lot of Jersey boys — and girls — were glad that he put aside politics to work on their behalf. That's his job.
New York mayor Michael Bloomberg made an unexpected endorsement of Obama after his post-Sandy performance, and he couldn't give a damn what people think. I'm sure it ruffled Donald Trump's bouffant to see bipartisanship working on behalf of the needy. FEMA's role in the disaster was night and day when compared to the cronyistic agency it had become under the Bush administration. These storm victims need shelter that only FEMA can provide. Can you imagine the neo-Reconstruction era that would result if Romney got his wish to divert disaster relief to private business?
A second Obama term looks brighter than the first, even though the wolves await to excoriate him over the attack in Benghazi, Libya. Fox News claims that members of the CIA made urgent requests to defend the American embassy but were ordered to "stand down." Even though the CIA and The Washington Post's David Ignatius have refuted the claim with point-by-point evidence, the torch-and-pitchfork brigade still wants to get its licks in on Obama.
My hope is that some Republicans will emerge, like Chris Christie, who put country before partisan ideology during the next four years and actually try to help in the recovery from the Bush recession. If my crystal is clear, they will have failed in their primary mission to make Obama a one-term president; failed to wrest away the right of a woman to choose what is best for her own body; and failed in their obstruction of progress on the economy. Perhaps a new approach, like compromise, might seem attractive in a second term. Romney can return to venture capitalism and ultimately fade into obscurity, like Bob Dole, minus the character and dignity.
Ironically, the Supreme Court's asinine Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates for unchecked and untraceable amounts of corporate money into the political process, probably ended up serving as a second stimulus to a still ailing economy. This was the most expensive race in history, with estimates that total expenditures will reach $6 billion. The Koch brothers and their Americans for Prosperity PAC coughed up $35 million. Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife gave $20 million to the Romney campaign. And Karl Rove's American Crossroads PAC surrendered $100 million, 93 percent for attack ads. The Democrats had their super pacs too but lacked large donors like the NRA, which gave $10 million, mostly for attack ads against Obama for some future fantasy confrontation between government agents and groups of armed "sovereign citizens." All that money, from both sides, went to ad agencies, consultants, and hometown TV stations, indirectly helping local economies and employing scores of field representatives. Who says the government can't create jobs?
Randy Haspel writes the "Born-Again Hippies" blog, where a version of this column first appeared.
This week it starts in earnest — the questioning. You can't escape it. It comes from your spouse, your kids, your parents — at the breakfast table, in the car, on the phone, via email: "What do you want for Christmas?" ...