Yes, I’ll Take the Moat and the Alligators

Texas Burning

May 10, 2011 4:06 P.M.

By Kevin D. Williamson

In case you’ve missed it, Texas has seen about 3,400 square miles of land — an area about the size of Puerto Rico — destroyed by wildfires. Pres. Barack Obama hit Texas to do some political fund-raising and give some speeches about immigration; Gov. Rick Perry suggested that he take a gubernatorially guided tour of some of the damage. The president couldn’t be bothered, but asked the governor to come to El Paso to act as a prop at a political event. Governor Perry declined.

Governor Perry often complains that the federal government simultaneously fails to do its real work and involves itself in things that are not real national priorities. The last time the president visited Texas, Governor Perry greeted him with a letter in hand demanding that the federal government execute its border-security duties. (It still won’t.) The governor is asking for a federal emergency declaration that will make additional firefighting resources available. The Obama administration is not budging. Never mind that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has seen fit to declare a snowstorm — in Connecticut, in the winter — a federal disaster this year, along with “severe winter storms” in Oklahoma and Missouri.

Democrats act as though Governor Perry is being hypocritical, because he has called for less federal interference in many state affairs. But, to my knowledge, Governor Perry has not called for the dissolution of the federal government (or of FEMA), and I am certain that Texans continue to pay taxes for the maintenance of it, serve in the military defending it, etc. When federal, state, and local authorities blew it during Hurricane Katrina, Texas found homes for a great number of those evacuees — the philosophy at work is federalism, not Social Darwinism.

I am fairly confident that if 3,400 square miles of Northern Virginia or New Jersey went up in flames, a federal emergency would be proclaimed. I am 100 percent confident that if the font size is one point off on your federally mandated Hmong-language minimum-wage poster, you can be sure that the Department of Labor will be airlifting a team of federal busybodies to be on your case most pronto; if you’re on fire, you get a nice speech.

In Texas, President Obama has more important things to do, such as raising money and pandering to Hispanic voters by dangling the promise of “comprehensive” immigration reform before them, knowing that it’s a go-nowhere proposition. He’ll visit a city on a border that his government controls about as well as President Zardari controls his, and which is at times about as dangerous.

To its credit, the Obama administration has dispatched aircraft to help with the firefighting . . . in Mexico.

Heckuva job, etc.

Dear Mr. Williamson,

You are a delight and a credit to NRO (and the magazine). I really don’t have much to add to this post, which appeared in NRO’s group blog known as “The Corner” (I just added it to my blogroll). One thing I will say is that while in Texas the President took jabs at Republicans, claiming that they won’t help him pass “comprehensive” (scare quotes are necessary as that is code word for amnesty) immigration reform even after he has done everything he could possibly do to tighten border security. His applause line is “All the stuff they’ve asked for, we’ve done,” and the fence along the Mexican border “is now basically complete.” But Republicans want still more, he said. “Maybe they’ll need a moat, maybe they’ll need alligators.”

So Mr. Williamson, keep up the good work and Mr. President, get to work on that moat, complete with alligators (and maybe a snake or two).

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6 Responses to Yes, I’ll Take the Moat and the Alligators

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    They left out the part about how Perry, without even giving a clue that he saw any irony in the situation, asked for and got cuts in funding for compensation for the firefighters of the Texas wildfires, and cuts in funding to support firefighting, and said Texas had all the resources it needs, thank you very much — while at the same time claiming to FEMA and President Obama that Texas resources were exhausted, and won’t Obama please bail out Perry’s overspending one more time . . .

  2. Ed Darrell says:

    Permian Basin 360, “Texas Forest Service fights fires, budget cuts”
    http://permianbasin360.com/fulltext?nxd_id=103676

    Editorial in the still-great Ft. Worth Star-Telegram:
    http://www.star-telegram.com/2011/04/22/3020765/texas-fires-ignite-desire-of-others.html

  3. Fake Herzog says:

    Ed,

    Thanks for responding to me — I asked for a source because your story seemed too good to be true. Sure enough, I go to your own sources and the story is too good to be true! From your first source:

    “A report by legislative staff recommended improvements to the agency — including increased oversight and better coordination across the state.

    Budget cuts could slash nearly $34 million from the Forest Service’s budget over two fiscal years — a steep cut compared with the last biennial appropriation of $109 million.

    […]

    The cuts come after some successes. Paul F. Hannemann, head of the Forest Service’s Incident Response Department, said that in the last budget cycle, his department added 55 people, mostly firefighters…In February, the Forest Service also completed its move into a new statewide wildfire command center in Merkel, a struggling West Texas town of a few thousand people near Abilene.”

    Your second source simply says the same thing — that the Texas House passed legislation that would slash the Texas Forest Service budget (although they don’t mention why — i.e. the report that found problems with the agency) and that the legislation is now being considered by the Texas Senate.

    Nothing about Governor Perry and how he “asked for and got cuts in funding for compensation for the firefighters of the Texas wildfires”.

    Why would you be so slippery?

    Mr. Sanders column doesn’t support your claims either (he seems to be obsessed with the fact that some of the counties that Gov. Perry wants to be declared disaster areas have vacation homes).

    In our debates over at your website, you show flashes of intelligence and thoughtfulness. I would encourage you to keep it up.

  4. Ed Darrell says:

    Fascinating how you could read the stuff and come to a conclusion opposite what they say.

    Perry proposed, the House took Perry’s proposal. Why slash firefighting? Because Perry can’t count. The surplus he promised last year in the campaign — oops! — it turned into a $27 billion deficit (small mathematical error, for a Republican).

    The Texas Forest Service added staff and facilities because of increasing wildfires (can you say “climate change?”); now, just as the new facilities come on line, the state is whacking away the budget.

    It’s not a question of reordering priorities. There will be fewer firefighters.

    What about the $9 billion in the “rainy day” fund? I guess Perry takes that too literally — fires don’t count as a rainy day, especially if he can just hoodwink FEMA into making the federal government cover for his errors one more year . . .

    Sanders points out that Perry was disingenuous in his request to the feds — that is, Perry lied. He got caught.

    Texans suffer. What an insult to the dead firefighters, and to those non-rich who lost farms, homes, livestock, and livlihoods.

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