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The people lead way on disaster aid

| Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Volunteers prepare to rescue cattle from the Liberty Bell Ranch in the wake of Tropical Storm Harvey Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017, in Liberty, Texas. The volunteers were traveling along Highway 90 when they stopped to help. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)
Volunteers prepare to rescue cattle from the Liberty Bell Ranch in the wake of Tropical Storm Harvey Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017, in Liberty, Texas. The volunteers were traveling along Highway 90 when they stopped to help. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, had not yet been born when Adlai Stevenson ran for president in the 1950s. But Stevenson could have been describing Cruz when he said, “A hypocrite is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation.”

Cruz, who voted against federal disaster funds for the victims of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, now wants federal funds for the victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas. He has come up with a sniveling excuse for his flip-flop, but it is all just a silly dance.

It better be a big stump that Cruz is standing on, because he needs room for U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and all but one member of the Texas GOP congressional delegation. They opposed help for New York and New Jersey, where large numbers of Democrats live, but now want it for Texas.

Vice President Mike Pence needs a place on that stump, too. As an Indiana congressman, he did vote for aid for Hurricane Katrina's victims in 2005, but not before saying, “Congress must ensure that a catastrophe of nature does not become a catastrophe of debt for our children and grandchildren.” Pence had demanded offsetting budget cuts in other parts of the country, which pitted one region against another and delayed aid to the victims. And now his boss is promising the world to Harvey's victims.

It is an old and sad story. Cicero explained away the hypocrisy of Roman politicians by asking the simple question, “ Cui bono ?” — “Who benefits?” And that works here, where Republican politicians opposed aid for Democrat districts, but now want it for their own.

Lucky for us, good people ignore politicians who put their personal gripes first, forgetting that government is the people. Average folks just do the right thing, without hesitation, like when the people of Houston became the saviors of the people of New Orleans, during Katrina.

As a Dallas Morning News editorial described it, the people of Houston stepped up, creating a citizens' force that “depended on churches, companies, nonprofits and tens of thousands of ordinary people waiting for that first convoy of fearful survivors who had huddled for days in the New Orleans Superdome.”

Houston operated the largest emergency shelter in American history. And more than 150,000 of the evacuees stayed, making the Houston region their home.

Now, among the thousands of volunteer rescuers and millions of private dollars being sent to Houston, New Orleans, facing jeopardy again, is returning the love. The “Cajun Navy” is one example. The online volunteer rescue group, according to The Washington Post, “roared into Pasadena, Tex.” last Sunday, towing bass boats behind high-wheeled trucks, pitching in alongside overwhelmed first responders.

“I was young during Katrina and I know how it feels to lose everything,” Cajun Navy member Jordy Bloodsworth said. “So being able to help others going through this situation that I have experienced, there's no way — no way — I could pass up helping.”

This is how Americans act — all races and colors, just helping their neighbors, all politics aside. It is time for our leaders to get behind their followers.

Joseph Sabino Mistick is a Pittsburgh lawyer (joemistick.com).

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