Republican Governor and Democratic President united by a disaster - Hurricane Sandy
A pugnacious political critic of President Obama and a close campaign surrogate of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, New Jersey Republican governor Chris Christie set aside his political rhetoric to join the president on Wednesday to plan-out relief activities to the worst hit state which Hurricane Sandi brought utter misery destroying lives, property and livelihood to millions.
Governor Christie ignored the political fall-out in teaming with Mr. Romney's opponent at the November 6 presidential election is saying loud and clear "I've got 2.4 million people out of power. I've got devastation on the shore. I've got floods in the northern part of my state. If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics then you don't know me."
I want to thank the president for coming here today. It's really important to have the president of the United States acknowledge all the suffering that's going on here in New Jersey and I appreciate it very much,” Christie said Wednesday afternoon as he and Obama toured the devastation. “We're going to work together to make sure we get ourselves through this crisis and get everything back to normal.”
Christie rebuffed suggestions on Tuesday that there were political implications to his work with the administration.
“He has worked incredibly closely with me since before the storm hit. I think this is our sixth conversation since the weekend. It’s been a great working relationship,” Christie said of the president.
From North Carolina to New England, Sandy’s high winds, storm surges, rain and snow have left thousands without power and claimed the lives of at least 59 people, according to the Associated Press.
Obama, who was previously scheduled to be on the campaign trail this week, canceled stops Monday and Tuesday to monitor the storm from Washington. He convened a video conference in the White House Situation Room with top advisers Tuesday morning and held a conference call with utility executives later in the day. The president met with top officials once again for a briefing Wednesday morning before he departed Washington. Obama’s trip to New Jersey was the only travel on his Wednesday schedule.
As he reviewed storm damage with Governor Christie in Atlantic City, where Sandy made landfall Monday night, Obama joined a political opponent who hasn't been shy about criticizing his administration. In recent days, though, Christie has appeared inclined to put politics aside in the wake of the deadly storm that slammed the East Coast. He applauded Obama’s response to New Jersey’s post-storm needs in a Tuesday morning interview.
“The federal government’s response has been great. I was on the phone at midnight again last night with the president, personally, he has expedited the designation of New Jersey as a major disaster area,” Christie said on NBC’s “Today” show. Obama ordered federal aid be sent to New Jersey, along with New York, West Virginia and Virginia, which were also impacted by Sandy.
President Obama toured the storm-tossed boardwalks of New Jersey’s ravaged coastline on Wednesday, in a vivid display of big-government muscle and bipartisan harmony that confronted Mitt Romney with a vexing challenge just as he returned to the campaign trail in Florida.
Obama and Christie reviewed the storm’s impact on New Jersey from the air for a little over an hour before meeting with residents on the ground. Both stressed that restoring power to residents who have lost it is the top priority.
Mr. Obama got his federal disaster agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency, in full gear to coordinate the relief work in six states that were affected by the hurricane, a clear display that the 'big government' needs to step in for situations like this, a contrary view held by his presidential candidate Mr. Romney who wants to fold half of the government and its programs.
The scene of Mr. Obama greeting his onetime political antagonist Gov. Chris Christie in Atlantic City was a striking departure from what has become an increasingly bitter campaign, marked by sharp divisions between Mr. Romney’s more limited view of the federal role and Mr. Obama’s more expansive vision. The president placed a hand on Mr. Christie’s back and guided him to Marine One, where the two men shared a grim flight over shattered sea walls, burning houses and a submerged roller coaster, reported Washington Post.
The tableau of bipartisan cooperation, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s highly visible role in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, has put Mr. Romney in an awkward position during the last week of a campaign in which he has fought Mr. Obama to a virtual draw. Last year, in a debate during the Republican primary, Mr. Romney appeared to advocate handing to the states much of the federal government’s role in dealing with major disasters.
As the Romney campaign was confronting questions about the candidate’s position on the federal role in emergency response, Mr. Obama and Mr. Christie were being accompanied on their tour of a devastated New Jersey by FEMA’s administrator, W. Craig Fugate, whose agency has won unstinting praise from Mr. Christie, a Republican, for the speed and intensity of its response to the devastation.
On Wednesday, the advantages of incumbency were on full display, as Mr. Christie heaped still more praise on Mr. Obama, saying, “He has sprung into action immediately.”
With Mr. Christie nodding behind him, Mr. Obama spoke about deploying C-130 military planes to ferry supplies to stricken places like New Jersey and urged storm victims to call (800) 621-FEMA to register for direct help from the federal government.
Pledging to respond swiftly, the president said that he had instituted a rule that government officials must return calls from the state and local authorities within 15 minutes. “We are not going to tolerate red tape,” he said, “We are not going to tolerate bureaucracy.”
“We will not quit until this is done,” he added.
- Asian Tribune -