Riders on the storm: Sandy validates a combined national response

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When the great storm came to the Eastern coastline and pushed into the interior states this week, nothing was spared the torrential rain and shrieking wind. Nothing, especially the comforting rhythms of everyday life.

As if a biblical scourge had come, meteorological records shattered, trees came tumbling down, power went off, high water flooded places never before inundated and people fled their homes to take shelter.

A tall ship sank in the tossing sea. A giant crane was ripped from its moorings and dangled from a skyscraper being built high about Manhattan. Fires raged and 100 homes were destroyed in Queens, New York, as firefighters could only watch from blocks away.

Across the nation, at least 40 people died and millions breathed or prayed their thanks that they were not among the dead or injured -- including in Pittsburgh, which was spared the worst. By the time Sandy is done, The Associated Press reported, property damage will tally $20 billion with another $10 billion to $30 billion of lost business.

Even that irresistible force, the presidential campaign, took time off as Sandy, a sunny name for a dark, swirling weather system, went its own destructive way. More interesting yet, the usual ideological slogans faded in the face of harsh reality. Just as no atheists are said to huddle in foxholes, no believers in limited government shouted over the wind to warn of the nanny state or creeping socialism.

As it was, preparation, planning and a combined effort proved indispensable in making the best of a disaster. FEMA -- the Federal Emergency Management Agency -- proved a vital ally of the states. None other than Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey did not think twice in praising the proactive leadership of President Barack Obama.

The majority of the American people understand the value of FEMA even if others such as Mitt Romney do not. In a CNN debate last year, Mr. Romney said federal borrowing for emergency relief was "immoral" and relief would be best left to the states or even privatized. This storm and its tragic aftermath stripped that logic naked.

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