When Chris Christie was a candidate for governor of New Jersey in 2009, I was unimpressed. He was an overweight, overbearing, over the top, loudmouth Republican politician. New Jersey voters were distraught. With New Jersey taxes going up, service going down, government pensions and debt out of control, they were looking for a change. They got change as a newly-elected Christie slashed programs and departments like a drunk Samarai warrior on vacation. He yelled and bullied his way through the legislature and its elected officials. He cut education funds, but returned much of the money to the account when the U.S. Department of Education reminded him they were federal funds not under his purlieu. He took credit for balancing the budget when New Jersey law requires the budget to be balanced anyway. And then, along came Sandy.
Hurricane Sandy climbed aboard New Jersey’s seaboard on October 29, 2012. She changed Chris Christie’s life and political career forever. Although Sandy was a Category 1 hurricane, just above a tropical storm, the low pressure area was so vast that it allowed the sea to literally rise and carry a “storm surge” across the barrier islands that are the New Jersey shore. The devastation was immense, but the political impact was almost as great when, just one week before the National Presidential Election, President Barack Obama visited the beleaguered State of New Jersey and its boisterous governor.
The first meeting was a bit tentative at first, but the public found out that despite their differences, opposite sides can work together. For this, I credit Christie. Why? Up to this point in his career, Christie never seemed to back down from his conservative political mantra. He never apologized; he never postured. I knew that President Obama would behave himself. We’ve seen it before. He is a master of communication and posturing. But Christie risked it all every time he reached out and shook the Presidents hand. The constant press coverage of the President and the Governor together, caring and talking, the arms length tugs at each other was comforting to the people of New Jersey, the United States, and, indeed, the world. There were a few not so comforted by the scenes on the news– the Republicans in Congress.
For his show of compassion for his people and in a show of solidarity with the President of the United States, Governor Christie was rewarded with a delay of disaster relief funds from FEMA, a move his own party members were instrumental in orchestrating. Christie unleashed his vocal castigation against Congress and rightfully so. With New Jersey in tatters and electrical power all but gone, his own pals decided to make recovery efforts for his constituency almost impossible– all because he embraced a President. Most of the people who lost everything paid for flood insurance, the money was there, but the votes in Congress were not.
A year later, New Jersey “celebrated” the anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. Leading up to all this, special programs, songs and slogans were put into play to bolster the moral of the people. Stronger than the Storm banners and graffiti sprawled across the State. Politicians, business owners and homeowners treated the storm’s anniversary as a joyous event– a holiday. All this while many folks are still pulling off moldy drywall and shoveling sand off their properties. Perhaps all disasters and tragic world events should be treated as holidays with parades, celebratory events, songs and slogans. We could revamp history and make it a little less dull and gloomy with such little diddies as “We’re Tougher than the Towers!” for 9/11, or “We’re Stronger Than the Reich!” for World War II.
As for Christie and his new State holiday, perhaps he deserves a little piece of the cake. His own party is still at it, ignoring the Sandy disaster as 50 Republican officials spent the day on the West Lawn of the Capitol speaking to a crowd of coal supporters for the “Count on Coal” project. So no one need worry about wiping their feet, the event was held on artificial turf. Even Sarah Palin took pot shots at the Governor at a book signing last week. It seems the conservatives are going to war against the Governor. Somehow, I don’t think he cares what Sarah Palin and her ilk think. He’s a Roman with a new holiday.