Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Leadership over partisanship: Obama and Christie on the ground in New Jersey

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Allies, perhaps even friends for a brief time, certainly two leaders facing a crisis and doing what they need to do to bring genuine relief to those affected by Superstorm Sandy.

Why is major Romney surrogate Christie doing this? He may think that President Obama's leadership has been "outstanding," but why did he come out and say it, and why has he been so public about it?

It depends how you look at it. There may in fact be no rift between Christie and Romney, but events dictate a different course of action than remaining in the partisan fray. Christie has a job to do -- and he's doing it.

Jeffrey Goldberg suggests that Christie is actually "subverting" Romney and that he's motivated by a) sentimentality in response to the devastation in his state, and/or b) a desire to run for president in 2016 and so implicitly by a desire to see Obama win. (He offers the third possibility, that Christie is driven by his crazy love for Bruce Springsteen, but that's rather less likely.) I have no doubt that Christie is looking ahead to a future presidential run, but Christie has been a loyal partisan and Romney booster, and so it seems unlikely that he's actively trying to help the president in partisan terms. As for the first possibility, I think Goldberg sells Christie short.

Again, Christie has a job to do. He loves New Jersey and is proud to be its governor. He sees all the devastation and it affects him deeply. He knows he needs federal help, and federal money, just as he knows that when you face a crisis like this you have to do what needs to be done and that, yes, some things are more important than partisanship.

And so, as Doug Mataconis suggests, Christie is just "speaking his mind" in praising the president -- that is, he's putting his state first, putting the partisan spin to the side, and saying nice things about President Obama because President Obama is, in fact, doing an outstanding job.

I'm generally extremely critical of Christie, while generally respecting his political skills, but in this case he deserves our praise for putting his state before his party, even if that means speaking the truth about President Obama at the expense of Mitt Romney.


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