To all my Republican friends who are flummoxed and wringing their hands over New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's acknowledgment that President Obama has been helpful in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, you need to — as they might say in Jersey — put a sock in it.
Chris Christie is the real thing, which is why we love him. His willingness and ability to tell the truth is his trademark. If Obama has been helpful during Christie and New Jersey's time of need, good for Obama.
Even true partisans like me, who have an instinct to find fault in everything Obama says or does, need to look elsewhere. What is Christie supposed to say? Well, he isn't supposed to say Obama is unhelpful if it's not true. And, according to Haley Barbour, the master GOP storm slayer of Katrina, if a governor on the front line has a disagreement with other government leaders while the worst of the crisis is being managed, that governor should raise complaints and criticisms in private. Barbour says the worst, most demoralizing thing that suffering citizens could witness is bickering among politicians while they are trying to save their families and property.
And by the way, the worst possible politics in 2012 would be for a Republican governor to appear to be trying to shape a sliver of the election by moaning and whining about needing more from the federal government.
The politics of natural disasters are bigger than just the geographic footprint of the damaged area. Every American who watches the news and who sees pictures of the damaged homes and communities will ask himself, "What if that were me, my family or my community?" You can bet that any answer includes the idea that he or she would expect the responsible political leaders to get along, communicate well and to not position themselves, much less their party, even slightly to try for some campaign advantage or to diminish a political opponent. That would be political suicide and rightly so.
So all of us who are trying to do by-the-minute calculations of what will affect the voting on Tuesday need to give Christie a break. His day job is calling. If he started using lines from his keynote address at the Republican National Convention in Tampa to criticize Obama during this crisis, it wouldn't help Mitt Romney one bit. It would anger voters everywhere, not just in deep blue New Jersey.