With one week to go until the election, President Obama has put campaigning aside. He had much more pressing matters to attend to: Hurricane Sandy was barreling towards the state of New Jersey, and the predictions for the destruction made it sound like the 2012 apocalypse predictions were actually going to come true.
The world didn’t end, but the damage left behind in Sandy’s wake did devastate the coastal Atlantic area. Many people were left without homes, and the storm killed over 100 people from the Caribbean to Canada. But New York and New Jersey were hit exceptionally hard. It’s been a few days since the storm made landfall, and the problems the storm has caused are numerous. Millions were left without electricity, many of whom are not expected to have power restored for 10 days. The public transportation that many rely on in order to get to work or school is down: many New York City subway stations are flooded, the New Jersey Transit rail system has been left so damaged that it is hard to say when exactly it will be up and running again. Fallen trees have damaged cars and homes, as well as blocked roads, making it impossible for many to get out of their towns (that have no electricity in the first place). Those who can make it around are now starting to find that gas is in short supply, with limited stations opened and lines stretching for miles. Cell phone service is down in many areas, making communication impossible. Flood waters lifted homes off of their foundations and onto highways and into other houses. And that’s only just the beginning of the damage.
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama voyaged to New Jersey and met with Governor Chris Christie to discuss what is being done to help the state recover from this disaster. The two took a walking tour of what remains of Atlantic City, one of New Jersey’s hardest hit towns, although it is certainly not the only one.
Under normal circumstances, the President meeting with the Governor of a state just days after a catastrophic natural disaster occurred would be considered business as usual. This is the President’s job, after all. But Obama is a democrat and Chris Christie is a Republican who spoke at this year’s Republican National Convention. In fact, Christie is one of Mitt Romney’s biggest supporters. So it should probably come as a surprise to no one that many conservatives have been criticizing the way these two leaders have been crossing their party lines in order to work together.
One article, entitled “Why Christie Sucked Up To Obama,” accuses Obama’s trip as being simply, “a photo op tour where Obama could demonstrate his bona fides in the presidential look-alike contest. He could comfort the grieving; he could stand in pictures backdropped by devastation; he could receive plaudits from Christie for signing checks that he could very well have signed from Washington, D.C.“ Rush Limbaugh also warned about the way in which the media would attempt to make the president look better by using this as a photo opportunity. In fact, after Christie praised the President’s response, Limbaugh said of Christie, “He’s fat and a fool. Don’t listen to Governor Christie. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
I’m sorry, what? When did Obama and Christie doing their jobs turn into a political game?
Christie has made a point making it known that this isn’t about politics. On Tuesday, Fox and Friends asked Christie whether or not Mitt Romney was going to take a tour of New Jersey with him. Christie responded, “I have no idea, nor am I the least bit concerned or interested. I have got a job to do here in New Jersey that is much bigger than presidential politics. And I could care less about any of that stuff.”
His point is clear: that this is not about politics. Obama’s visit to New Jersey has nothing to do with helping his campaign. While in New Jersey, the President spoke to citizens stuck in shelters after their homes were destroyed, sending the message to these locals that he want to help them rebuild.
Whether or not Obama was up for reelection in a week, this is exactly what he would, and should, be doing. Just like Christie’s job is to clean up his devastated state, it is Obama’s job to mobilize the government organizations into action. Obama should be going to the state hit the hardest by Sandy, reassuring them that he plans to make sure nothing holds back the cleanup and rebuilding effort. Why should differences in politics keep the President and the Governor from making sure relief efforts begin as quickly as possible? What citizens of New York and New Jersey want to hear is that their government is doing whatever it takes to get affected areas back on their feet. The election should not be a factor: Obama is doing his job, and Christie should not be criticized for praising Obama’s efforts.
This is not about Obama or Christie playing politics, or being bipartisan in order to “look good” to the media. This isn’t about voters or the election. This is about an entire state being affected by a natural disaster, and left incapacitated. This is about a President talking to the citizens of a country and listening to their stories in order to get firsthand accounts of what those hit the hardest are going through. This is about doing what he, as President of the United States, can do in order to help the recovery. And Obama would be doing this if it was his first day as President or his last day. So why is there so much criticism for these two public officials doing their job?
Newark, New Jersey mayor Corey Booker, who is known for pitching in personally in times of crisis, has been working around the clock to help out citizens. He has been personally answering many twitter messages from locals asking for help, sending supplies to those in need. Booker has gone as far as to open up his home to those in need of a warm place to stay for a little while. And yet no one is criticizing Booker for not sitting in his office answering phone calls. The criticism Obama and Christie are receiving has absolutely nothing to do with how good of a job they are doing: it is more about trying to discredit them so close to the election. I don’t see either politicians “playing politics” here. I see them doing their jobs. I see them trying to get New York and New Jersey to function again as quickly as possible, while the media tries to turn this natural disaster into a campaign event, which is utterly sickening. This is about people who have no power, no water, no homes, or no transportation. It’s not a joke.
Written by Jackie Klein