Commentary Magazine


Does Romney Want to Abolish FEMA?

The left has been trying to whip up controversy over a comment Mitt Romney made at a GOP primary debate last year, when he answered a question about whether he’d abolish FEMA by saying he’d like to privatize a whole lot of government programs. Did Romney specifically say he’d privatize FEMA? No, but his answer did suggest it. And because there aren’t any other political controversies for the media to cover this week, it’s blown up into a major news story.

Here’s Romney’s actual comment from the GOP debate:

As David Frum points out, Romney never actually called for the elimination of FEMA at the debate. He was evading the question. That’s not exactly commendable, but it also isn’t unusual for a politician:

Watch without prejudice, though, and you realize: that’s not what he said. Instead, he evaded a question from CNN‘s John KIng about FEMA by offering an answer that generically endorsed federalism without committing Romney on FEMA either one way or the other.

It’s a familiar politician’s trick. 

Still, that doesn’t answer the question of whether Romney wants to eliminate FEMA. If only there was some way to find out his actual position on this issue. Maybe this Politico article from yesterday can give us some clues:

The Romney campaign stressed Monday that states should take the lead in responding to emergencies like hurricanes. But the campaign said Romney would not abolish the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

“Gov. Romney believes that states should be in charge of emergency management in responding to storms and other natural disasters in their jurisdictions,” Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement. “As the first responders, states are in the best position to aid affected individuals and communities, and to direct resources and assistance to where they are needed most. This includes help from the federal government and FEMA.”

A campaign official added that Romney would not abolish FEMA.

Yes, but would he abolish FEMA or not? It’s all so ambiguous. What we need is more reporters out there demanding answers over and over again until we get to the bottom of this.