The Greensburg tornado has turned into a political storm.
It started when Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, said a lack of National Guard equipment would slow recovery efforts, because much of it is in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Given the political black eye that President Bush still wears over his administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina, Sebelius’ comments about Greensburg struck a nerve.
The Republican White House was snappish. Spokesman Tony Snow said Tuesday morning that Sebelius had asked only for “FM radios.”
He also appeared to lecture the governor about how to seek help from the government: “If you don’t request it, you’re not going to get it.”
It didn’t take long for an anti-war group, Senate Democrats and presidential hopeful Barack Obama to weigh in on Sebelius’ side.
Defending the White House were conservatives who accused Sebelius of grandstanding, and the state’s two Republican senators, who attempted to distance themselves from her remarks.
Snow later lengthened the list of items sought by Kansas beyond FM radios. And Sebelius wasn’t about to back down.
“Let me be clear: With the equipment we have, the men and women of the Kansas National Guard have the initial response to the Greensburg tornado under control,” she said Tuesday.
“I have said for nearly two years and will continue to say that we have a looming crisis on our hands when it comes to National Guard equipment in Iraq and our needs here at home.”
About half the state’s National Guard trucks are in Iraq, equipment that would be useful in clearing debris, she said.
Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, the state’s adjutant general, said the Kansas National Guard’s equipment had been reduced about one-third from prewar levels, which were already low.
Bush can keep denying, but he can't hide the truth from the American people.