During a GOP primary debate on June 13, 2011, CNN moderator John King noted that FEMA–the Federal Emergency Management Agency–was about to run out of money.
And so he asked Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney:
“There are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we’re learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role.
“How do you deal with something like that?”
“Absolutely,” Romney replied. “Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction.
“And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.
“Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut–we should ask ourselves the opposite question: What should we keep?
“We should take all of what we’re doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we’re doing that we don’t have to do?
“And those things we’ve got to stop doing, because we’re borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we’re taking in.”
On October 30, 2012, one day after Hurricane Sandy lashed the densely-populated East Coast of the United States, reporters wanted to know if Romney still wanted to eliminate FEMA.
And, as he had on so many other issues, Mitt Romney once again refused to answer questions.
“Governor, are you going to eliminate FEMA?” a pool eporter shouted to Romney.
Romney refused to answer.
The reporter asked Romney at least five times: “If you’re elected President, would you eliminate FEMA?” and “What would you do with FEMA?”
Another reporter asked: “Governor, are you going to see some storm damage?”
Again, no answer.
“Governor,. has Chris Christie invited you to come survey storm damage?”
“Governor, you’ve been asked 14 times, why are you refusing to answer the question?”
Again, Romney refused to reply.
Finally, under mounting public pressure, he gave this reply:
“I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters.
“As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first responders who work tirelessly to help those in need.”
In a court of law, a defendant has the right to refuse to take the witness stand and answer questions. And jurors are told by the judge they should not assume the defendant is guilty for doing so.
Courtrooms are often places for a game of let’s-pretend:
- Let’s pretend that a man who’s accused of rape or murder is innocent–even if he refuses to answer legitimate questions; and
- Let’s pretend that a truly innocent man wouldn’t want to clear himself from a totally false charge
But this is the real world.
And, in it, unlike a courtroom, experience teaches that:
- People who are honest want to testify to that truth; and
- People who refuse to answer legitimate questions usually do have something to hide.
Think of Richard Nixon refusing to answer questions about Watergate.
Think of Ronald Reagan refusing to take questions about Iran-Contra.
Think of George W. Bush refusing to take questions about why he ignored months of terrorism warnings before 9/11.
And think of Mitt Romney refusing to answer questions on any number of subjects.
So it’s natural to distrust those who refuse to give specific answers to specific questions–especially when those questions apply to matters that direclty affect people’s lives.
For millions of Americans who profess to be deeply religious, Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:7-8 should have been instructive:
Ask, and it shall be given you. Seek, and ye shall find. Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
For every one that asketh receiveth. And he that seeketh findeth. And to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
In a democracy, those words are a call to citizen action:
In the Soviet Union, the truth about the workings of government and the realities of everyday life was carefully guarded.
Only those who gained special access to the Kremlin’s hidden archives could learn at least some of that truth.
Everyone else had to settle for the official, self-serving, lie-filled pronouncements of the Soviet leadership.
But Americans have no such excuse.
They do have access to a wide range of news from differing sources–ranging from the far left to the far right. At least 1,382 daily newspapers–both domestic and foreign– provide information on a wide range of national and international issues.
More than 20 nationwide broadcasting networks exist. Among these: ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, NBC, PBS, Telemundo, The CW.
Nevertheless, millions of Americans remain ignorant of the well-revealed truth about the issues that most affect their lives.
As a result, Cassius’ words to Brutus in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar apply to them:
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings.”