When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie warned New Jerseyans on Friday to “get the hell off the beach,” he likely wasn’t shooting for an iconic moment. But it was:
That sort of no-nonsense, blunt talk and his command of the situation will, I am certain, cement an image of the governor as a tough-as-nails leader for many residents and those across the country. Being in the New York media market helps. He seemed to be everywhere — on the Weather Channel, on the Sunday talk shows, on Twitter and every place else. He was energetic, calm and up-to-date with all the facts and figures. He managed to express relief after the hurricane passed through while still remaining vigilant about the danger of flooding. On “Meet the Press” he told David Gregory: “The key is that we’ve tried to keep people fully informed, be fully transparent, to lower fear and raise confidence. And that’s what we’re trying to do, and I think that’s the best thing a governor can do in this circumstance.” He certainly did that.
Not since Rudy Giuliani in the 9-11 aftermath (under much, much worse conditions) have we seen a public figure take the reigns in a disaster with such authority.
What came through was a side of Christie his political critics don’t often notice. When he spoke with pride about New Jersey residents coming together, you could see a kinder, gentler and more paternal Chris Christie. And in his fleece jacket without a tie, Christie seemed to be just one of the guys in New Jersey, direct (not bullying) and dependable (not bullheaded).
Christie’s management skills will be tested as New Jerseyans deal with the flooding and assess property damage. For now, however, Christie still can lay claim to being the country’s most dynamic and adept governor. But one thing is clear: His excuse that he’s not “ready” for a job promotion is increasingly preposterous. Is there a single candidate in the Republican presidential race who is as impressive or who possesses better executive skills? Not that I’ve seen.