What about that hurricane?

No, I’m not talking about Irene, which turned out to be a smaller storm than was anticipated (for which we are thankful). I’m talking about the media hurricane (Daily Beast media critic Howard Kurtz found it excessive, too).

Did you feel that the media was hinting at something larger than a whirlwind? Well, yes, and then Dana Milbank’s column today made it all as clear as an old-fashioned incandescent light bulb. The headline: “Hurricane Irene and the Benefits of Big Government.”

Don’t expect anybody to throw a tea party, but Big Government finally got one right.

Love that tea party reference, don’t you? I furthermore love that “finally.” It’s an unintentional admission that the response to the hurricane is big government’s only recent success. 

It is an indication of how badly government usually works that Mr. Milbank is reduced to using disaster relief as a vindication. But disaster relief isn’t primarily a function of big government. National disaster relief was handled on a national level before the emergence of big government in the form of the New Deal. Herbert Hoover, you’ll recall, came to national prominence by running disaster relief after the great Mississippi River Flood of 1927. (Hoover was secretary of commerce. FEMA didn’t exist yet. It was established by Jimmy Carter in 1979. I guess by then the commerce secretary had so much to do that we needed a new government department.)

The government’s response to the much-hyped Irene (I was expecting to see the teacup Yorkies of the Upper East side boarding an ark two by two) wasn’t a vindication for excessive, job-killing regulation, a health care system that will engulf us in red tape without providing better health care, or any of the other excrescences of big bad government. It was the proper response, and I hope government would have done as well if the storm had been as big as was anticipated.

The entire press corps joined in hyping the storm. Speaking of the Irene coverage on ABC’s “This Week,” George Will said, “”Whatever else you want to say about journalism, it shouldn’t subtract from the nation’s understanding and it certainly shouldn’t contribute to the manufacture of synthetic hysteria that is so much a part of modern life.”

I can’t help feeling that the hysterical coverage was an attempt to throw a lifeline to a floundering president. President Obama could rush home from Martha’s Vineyard 7 hours early and show himself in charge (Hurricane Katrina was a latent theme in much of the coverage). There was something desperate, however, rather than reassuring in seeing the president at the National Weather Service. Was the man who has driven our economy to its knees really running our hurricane relief? The president is supposed to speak at times like this, but I think we want him to be our president and not our weatherman (no Bill Ayres jokes, okay?).