With the grim inevitability of Greek tragedy, three things always happen when a hurricane makes landfall in the United States. First, the storm will be touted by the corporate media as evidence that anthropogenic climate change presents an existential threat to humanity and the planet. Second, anyone who dares question the accuracy of this claim will be either ignored or denounced as a dangerous anti-science “denier.” Third, if the hurricane happens to hit a state with a GOP governor, he will be blamed for causing any resultant death and destruction.
In the case of Hurricane Ian, all three commenced more than 24 hours before the storm actually arrived in Florida. On Tuesday, CNN talking head Don Lemon contradicted Jamie Rhome — the acting director of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Center — about the effect of climate change on the storm’s intensity. Rhome tried to stay on topic and cautioned Lemon against linking any single weather event to climate change. Lemon nonetheless insisted on providing this brilliant scientific analysis: “Well, listen, I grew up there and these storms are intensifying. Something is causing them to intensify.”
Also on Tuesday, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell told White House reporters that she had concerns about the complacency of some Floridians who hadn’t experienced a major hurricane, but she characterized FEMA’s interaction with state officials as “excellent.” Predictably, Politico misrepresented the administrator’s comments in order to create a false narrative about Florida’s allegedly “lax response” to storm warnings. Later, a “reporter” hit Gov. Ron DeSantis with this: “FEMA Administrator Criswell said today that she acknowledged concerns about Florida’s, as it was said, ‘lax response’ to the storm so far.” DeSantis immediately shut him down:
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Give me a break. That is nonsense. Stop politicizing, OK? Stop it. We declared a state of emergency when this thing wasn’t even formed.… Honestly, you’re trying to attack me I get, but you’re attacking these other people who have worked very hard. So, that’s just totally false. I don’t think we have ever, certainly since I’ve been governor, declared a state of emergency this early.
Politico later executed a stealth edit, replacing “lax response” with a more accurate description of Criswell’s comments. If the reporter’s question sounds familiar, it’s not an illusion. The “lax response” trope has been used by the media for decades against GOP governors and presidents when no genuine fault can be found with their reactions to natural disasters. Remember when President George W. Bush was blamed for the Katrina disaster after routing more funds to Louisiana for civil works projects than any other state? Never mind that Louisiana public officials misappropriated much of the money that was meant to reinforce the levees.
Meanwhile, back in Florida, DeSantis was taking incoming fire from the Fourth Estate as the storm was about to make landfall. The Weekly Dish’s Andrew Sullivan was generous enough to offer this inspired insight: “DeSantis now being tested as a governor not a troll.” This is unusually trite for Sullivan. His effusions, while frequently vicious and sometimes a little crazy, are usually a lot more original. Where this storm is concerned, though, he has fallen in with the theme adopted by most of the corporate media during the past 48 hours — Hurricane Ian is a timely test of DeSantis’ leadership. Here’s an example of the genre from TIME:
Ron DeSantis is about to face the most consequential 72 hours of his political career.… DeSantis, however, remains largely untested. For three years, he’s been able to pick culture-war fights with teachers and Walt Disney World without the pesky distraction of serious governing. He doesn’t have a lot of the compassionate chits that his predecessors had stored up in advance.
If the author of this piece believes that DeSantis has been “largely untested,” he should consider leaving journalism. In reference to hurricanes, DeSantis dealt effectively with the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 storm that hit the Florida Panhandle just before he was elected in 2018. Moreover, he responded to COVID-19 more effectively than any other large-state governor in the country, despite Florida’s huge percentage of elderly — and therefore vulnerable — residents. He has rarely received credit for that by corporate media, which will doubtless bury any good news about his response to Hurricane Ian.
As bad as the media coverage has been on Hurricane Ian, however, the dumbest response to Florida’s latest storm came from Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). During a discussion with the renowned climate experts of Morning Joe, she delivered herself of this gem: “We just did something about climate change for the first time in decades. That’s why [Democrats] have to win this as that hurricane bears down on Florida. We’ve got to win in the midterms.” Thus, ipso facto, Republicans do cause hurricanes and DeSantis must get the Katrina treatment to prevent him and the GOP from destroying Gaia.