The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

National News

January 31, 2014

After snow, mayor and gov play delicate blame game

(Continued)

----- — "Everyone keeps trying to tell me how bad the weather is going to be but I keep saying if the weather was going to be bad, Charley would have called and he hasn't called me," Riley wrote, according to records obtained by The Associated Press using Georgia's open records laws. English offered to call minutes later.

Deal mentioned English directly when discussing the mistakes Thursday, and the chief said he had "made a terrible mistake and put the governor in an awful position."

Whatever the fallout for Deal and Reed, they have plenty of examples of politicians whose careers met a turning point due to a disaster. President George W. Bush had sagging approval ratings before voters resoundingly approved of his work in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

But Bush saw the other end of the spectrum four years later with Hurricane Katrina. Bush and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat, never recovered politically from the public disapproval over government's response after the storm.

Weather disasters in particular become a "crucible moment" for politicians, said Bob Mann, a Louisiana State University professor who worked for Blanco in 2005. That differs from a scandal like what New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie faces for his administration forcing a bridge closure and resulting traffic jam as political retribution.

"Not everyone in New Jersey experienced that," Mann said. "But something like a hurricane or a snow storm, everybody is impacted, and they take it more personally."

In Birmingham, Ala., the weather was just as bad, and at least twice as many students (11,000) spent the night at schools there compared with Atlanta, but the backlash was much different.

Angry parents vented on social media and talk radio about meteorologists who blew the forecast by predicting central Alabama would get only a trace of snow and experience no travel problems.

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