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Texas wildfires lead gov to role reversal, now seeks federal aid

By Lynn Herrmann     May 1, 2011 in Politics
Austin - After repeatedly declaring he wants the US government to keep out of the affairs of Texans, governor Rick Perry recently sent a letter to President Obama requesting more federal resources, including money, to fight the worst wildfires in state history.
“I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state,” Perry wrote in his letter (pdf) to the president in mid-April.
As of late Friday, that request had gone unanswered, and almost 1 million acres have burned during that period, bringing the state total to almost 2 million acres this year alone. So serious have the wildfires become that the governor recently urged Texans to pray for rain during the three-day Easter weekend. Those prayers have, if conducted, remained unanswered for the most part, as much of the state still finds itself struggling with a lingering drought of extreme and exceptional proportions.
FEMA spokesman Bradley Carroll states Perry’s letter for statewide disaster declaration is under review, the Christian Science Monitor reports.
Perry’s request for additional federal aid comes just two months after he delivered his state of the state speech, a speech in which he recommended an amendment to the US Constitution that would create a balanced federal budget and at the same time hold Washington accountable.
The governor has repeatedly chided the Obama administration on issues ranging from border security to not accepting federal stimulus money, and has gone as far as suggesting the state secede. In response, Obama himself has generally ignored the governor, most notably on a visit to the Lone Star state last year.
Although the US Forest Service is actively involved in helping fight the state’s devastating wildfires, some have questioned Obama’s delayed response to Perry’s request, in light of a string of deadly tornadoes that recently ripped apart the southeastern US. Four days after a series of deadly twisters hit North Carolina, the president gave the state a disaster declaration, opening the doors for federal aid.
“We expect the [disaster declaration] to be going through approval, but we have not received it yet,” said Catherine Frazier, spokeswoman for Perry’s office, according to CSM. She added that “Texas continues to pull all resources available toward fighting these fires, and we're doing everything at the state level to continue fighting this and ensure that we protect property in Texas as best as possible.”
The wildfires have destroyed more than 350 homes, killing three people since late last year, and have been fueled by the drought conditions and abnormally strong winds throughout the spring season.
Meanwhile, there are those defending Obama’s delayed response to Perry’s current role-reversal in seeking federal money. “ There's two reasons why I don't think there's any political footdragging,” said Bruce Buchanan, a political science teacher at the University of Texas in Austin, according to CSM. “One, it's not Obama's style, and, two, it would be a politically costly thing to do when Americans are in danger.”
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