In early December of 2005 I attended the annual holiday gathering of the Monmouth Ocean Development Council. This particular party stands out in my memory of the hundreds of such parties I’ve attended over the years because of the entertainment. A jazz band from New Orleans was touring the country to raise money for the Katrina recovery efforts. Their music was fabulous. Their plea for help is what stuck with me. It was deep, personal and profound. The wreckage seen on television four months earlier was a distant memory for me, until I felt a little of the pain in that band’s plea.
The difference between hearing about and watching news accounts of a devastating hurricance and living through the aftermath of such a catostrophic event is like the difference between watching porn and having sex, though not nearly as fun. It’s not fun at all.
Last week I spoke at the Monroe Township Republcian Club’s monthly meeting. As I told the group in my opening remarks, it was good to be away from Monmouth County for a little while. It reminded me of the drive I took to Deptford, NJ in late September of 2001 to visit a customer, but really to escape the pain that Middletown was experiencing after 9-11.
In Monroe it was good to experience a bit a normalcy; to listen to people complain about how long their power was out for and what a lousy job their mayor and JCP&L had done to get the power back on. I started that morning watching the guts of my neighbors’ homes being transferred into garbage trailers. I drove past parking lots filled with Red Cross trucks, utilitiy trucks from the mid-west and laundry trailers from Oklahoma that morning. It was good to see normal life only 25 miles from home. It was a relief to talk politics with like minded people and to forget the devastation at home for a little while.
Like my friends in Monroe and many other inland communities, the national Republicans who are blaming Governor Chris Christie for President Obama’s reelection, Hurricane Sandy is not real. It’s like bad porn. They are getting their satisfaction from complaining and scapegoating their own concerns which are trivial in comparison to what Christie has been dealing with.
You won’t hear Mississippi Governor Hailey Barbour, Louisianna Governor Bobby Jindal, or former Florida Governor Jeb Bush complaining about Christie’s actions, including his embrace of Obama, during Sandy. They get it. They’ve been there.
Had Mitt Romney won the presidency, his strategy of appealing to the 53%, letting Obama define him as a heartless robber barren all summer and then waging a 2 month campaign that let America know what a good man he really is, winning the first debate and then cruising would have been declared a disciplined and brilliant campaign. I and many others were ready to write it up that way.
Had Sandy not have happened, it might have worked. Chris Christie might have helped put Romney over the top. But Sandy did happen and Romney’s strategy was risky and flawed. Republicans now know they need a message and messengers for the 100%.
As I pointed out to my friends in Monroe, a community where the most common surname is Patel, there are too few brown people in the room at most Republican events. That’s not Chris Chrisite’s fault.
If by doing his job and doing it well, Chris Chrisite helped Barack Obama win a second term, that speaks more to Christie’s appeal and influence in America than it does of Obama and Romney.
Some have said that Chrisite should have handled Obama they same way New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg handled the president and declined to participate in a photo op. For those people, Hurricane Sandy is not real either. As someone for whom the wreckage is real, I’m happy to be living on the Jersey side of the Raritan Bay, and not in Staten Island where Bloomberg would have started the New York Marathon a week after Sandy hit while his residents were fending for themselves. They still are fending for themselves, three weeks later, according to NJ.com.
When Christie ran for governor in 2009, he said he would govern as a one termer. Meaning that he would govern without regard for the politics of his positions, policies and actions. We can argue over whether he has really governed that way during most of the last three years, but there is really no argument that he has governed that way over the last three weeks.
Those that don’t appreciate that and who are blaming Christie for the election not turning out the way they wanted, just don’t get it.