Storm gives rise to challenges and opportunities

By Wei Hongxia
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, November 1, 2012
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In this photo released by U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), aerial views during an Army search and rescue mission show damage from Hurricane Sandy to the New Jersey coast, Oct. 30, 2012. [Xinhua photo]

In this photo released by U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), aerial views during an Army search and rescue mission show damage from Hurricane Sandy to the New Jersey coast, Oct. 30, 2012. [Xinhua photo] 

If not for Hurricane Sandy, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney would seize the chance to make the most of their final campaigning hours. At just one week from the grand finale, however, Armageddon seemed to befall on America, blurring the picture of the American presidential elections. Television showed not only the cruel images of the hurricane ravishing through America's eastern regions, but also heartwarming scenes of Obama and other state officials commanding disaster relief efforts.

Before the massive storm set foot on land, American schools, federal government departments and enterprises had told their students and employees to stay at home and be safe with all work suspended. Although fully prepared, the country was hit hard by Sandy, a devil whose advent coincided with Halloween and led to the inevitable losses of property and, unfortunately, lives.

In this crucial moment, Obama carried out his presidential duties without sparing any efforts, boosting the people's confidence in his administration and earning their trust. He seemed to have put his campaign aside, traveling around to check up on the storm-hit areas and convening safety meetings. His actions showed his administration's care for the nation's people and its ability to lead the country to triumph over disaster. In doing so, Obama earned the praise and respect from both parties and in turn seemed to enhance his position.

However, politics, when associated with natural disasters, could pose various risks and challenges. First of all, disaster relief and crisis management can directly reflect the leadership abilities of a president and his administration. If the government does not do a good job, it will lose the voters' support and trust. In 2005, the Republican government failed to respond quickly and adequately to the devastation that was Katrina and therefore received severe criticism for a long period of time. If the damages inflicted by this storm are similar to those caused by the last one, the Obama administration will face criticism and, more specifically, give the Republicans leverage for attack.

Next, Obama's re-election campaign team will have to downsize on campaign rhetoric in order to avoid having politics connected with the disaster and leading voters to think they are using the disaster to their end. If they were to go about it any other way, the Obama administration would completely lose its trustworthiness. However, if Obama focuses all his attention on disaster relief and crisis management, he will lose the chance to win over those voters not affected by the storm. In short, the Democratic camp should take the situation very seriously.

The storm seems to plunge Romney into a deep hole filled with dilemma. On the one hand, as a presidential candidate, he cannot mobilize any forces or resources to support disaster management and rescue efforts. All he is able to do is play edge ball by raising money for the storm-hit people and trying to give them words of encouragement and consolation. And right now, it simply does not feel like the right time to attack the Obama administration. On the other hand, if Romney does not react to the disaster at all, how can the people then trust him to lead their country out of the economic recession as a prospective president? To some extent, he is facing even bigger challenges.

Sandy devastated American core city New York by slashing through it with heavy winds and downpours, and moved across its political center, Washington D.C., showing no sign of straying from its westward path. Mother Nature has shaken up the American political game of presidential elections in a cruel manner.

The author is now a visiting scholar with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. She is a columnist with For more information please visit:

(This post was written in Chinese and translated by Pang Li.)

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of


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