There is little doubt that being a government official is difficult when struck by a natural disaster as formidable as Hurricane Sandy. There are thousands of people in varying levels of need and limited resources to help them with. However, these same situations are some of the easiest if you are a politician (and of course, many people are both, and one side of their job is much easier than the other). Instead of arguing over tax policy and foreign affairs, you get to tell all of your constituents to be safe and take some me-time. Not that they’re wrong, it’s just hard to mess that one up.
For New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, however, there is more to think about. He is the governor of the densest state in the country, the one hardest hit by the storm, an outspoken critic of the president, and an oft talked about candidate for president the next time the Republicans need one, whether that’s 2016 or 2020. So, a huge storm lays waste to your state, the president swoops in to help, it’s a week before the election…what do you do?
Christie could have scored major points with Mitt Romney and the rest of the G.O.P. by criticizing Obama’s relief efforts. If he was looking to be appointed by Romney to a cabinet position, this could be a logical play, but Governor Christie intends to keep his title, and he will at least until 2014 when he expects a strong challenge from Newark mayor and amateur superhero, Cory Booker. New Jersey is a blue state, and a blatantly political attack on the president when he is trying to help the state recover could sink the popular governor’s reelection chances.
Instead, with an eye toward 2014, 2016, or perhaps simply speaking his mind, Governor Christie was full of praise for the president:
"He has worked incredibly closely with me since before the storm hit. I think this is our sixth conversation since the weekend. And it's been a great working relationship to make sure that we're doing the jobs that people elected us to do. And I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern and compassion for our state and for the people of our state. And I heard it on the phone conversations with him, and I was able to witness it today personally."
Is Christie a very shrewd politician thinking several moves ahead or just a guy who doesn’t censor himself? In this case, and for much of his political career, he’s been able to be both.