I’d like to think this moment changed something—that it could. I don’t want it to change the result of the coming election. I’m already wanting and wishing on that subject enough already. I don’t even want it to change the policy debate. We can go ahead argue about FEMA and whether federal resourcing and management are the best way to address disaster relief —once everyone is in where it’s safe and dry we can have that discussion. But the thing I’d really like to believe changed is on the level of mutual respect.
I can recall that Governor Christie of New Jersey was pretty darned forceful in his repudiation of President Obama back when he was addressing the keynote to the Republican National Convention this summer. What the country lacked in its president was leadership, he said, several times and several different ways. Again and again. It wasn’t a pretty speech (not in my book anyway) but it scored on the level of political invective —which is the game we play these days. And all through the subsequent campaign Chris Christie has been “the man with the pan” for the President, delivering mal mots for Mitt at the drop of a hat..
At a Romney rally not two weeks ago, the governor offered that President Obama was “blindly walking around the White House looking for a clue,” adding “he’s like a man wandering around a dark room, hands up against the wall, clutching for the light switch of leadership, and he just can’t find it.” Of course the putdown line got a good rise out of folks in attendance.
Then along came Hurricane Sandy and The Governor of New Jersey had to attend to the job he was elected to do by the citizens of his state —the President attended to his job as well— and to his credit, Governor Christie’s story changed.
“I have to say, the administration, the President, himself and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate have been outstanding with us so far,” Christie said on Good Morning America reporting in the morning after the storm came ashore. “We have a great partnership with them,” he said. And as for the guy in the dark room fumbling for the light switch— “He worked on [early disaster declaration] last night with me, offered any other assets that we needed to help,” Christie said. “I want to thank the President personally for his personal attention to this.”
Touring the storm damaged area and appearing to speak to the press together, Christie and Obama made for all appearances like something of a mutual admiration society. “It’s been a great working relationship to make sure that were doing the job people elected us to do,” Christie enthused. The President answered “I have to say that Gov. Christie throughout this process has been responsive. He’s been aggressive in making sure that the state got out in front of this incredible storm and I think the people of New Jersey recognize that he has put his heart and soul into making sure the people of New Jersey bounce back even stronger than before. So, I just want to thank him for his extraordinary leadership and partnership.”
Damn— What’s a bile frothing bitter partisan hack to do with talk like that?
These last few days Governor Christie has faced some amount of nervous questioning and open criticism from folks of his own political stripe —a little like Dylan at Newport when he went electric, or when he started singing about his Born Again Christianity in the 80's —dude, his fans turned critics chime, we liked the old stuff. Christie's answer has been plain —whether it was answering George Stefanopoulus on GMA or the fine folks at 'Fox and Friends' —that the last thing on his mind, as he sets about doing the work he was elected to do by the citizens of his state, the last thing is the gamesmanship of presidential politics. Tweeted back in the general direction of his critics : "Today I'm touring NJ with President Obama. Yes, he's a Democrat, and I'm a Republican. We're also adults, and this is how adults behave."
Adults— now that would be a change.