Romney's Unhelpful Attempt to Help Hurricane Victims

It's in black and white on the Red Cross website. It wants your blood and your money but, thank you very much, it doesn't want your canned goods or socks, new or used:

"Unfortunately, due to logistical constraints the Red Cross does not accept or solicit individual donations or collections of items. Items such as collected food, used clothing and shoes must be sorted, cleaned, repackaged and transported which impedes the valuable resources of money, time, and personnel."

But if you're Mitt "Richie Rich" Romney and you always get your way, you needed a photo-op to provide counterprogramming to the Barack Obama-Chris Christie love-in/relief effort. So Mr. CEO set up his own "storm relief event." If it "impedes" the Red Cross, well, that's too bad.

To avoid a bust in the crucial swing state of Ohio -- what if you set up a donation site and no one donated? -- Romney's campaign gave workers a few thousand dollars (the campaign admits it supplied the donations but wouldn't confirm the amount) to a nearby Wal-Mart to buy some of the very things the Red Cross enumerated in its Do Not Send list.

"Thank you," Romney said to one attendee who came up to him with a jar of peanut butter, as folks moved grocery items from one pile to another, this Potemkin Village of disaster relief efforts rolling for the cameras. So long as you ignored the "Obama, You're Fired" t-shirts for sale, it was a "storm relief event," not a a campaign event.

On its website,  the Red Cross shows how easy it is to make a monetary donation. It can be done on a laptop in a high-school gymnasium in Ohio, even. Unfortunately, a bunch of people hunched over their computers clicking on the "send" button doesn't make for a great photo.

(Margaret Carlson is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow her on Twitter.)

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