Opinion: Obama and Christie Show Power of Working Together

Thursday, November 01, 2012 - 07:25 AM

President Obama and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie arrive in Atlantic City, NJ, to tour areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. (Getty/Getty)

Hurricane Sandy has come and gone, its effects far from over. Lives lost, property damaged, millions in the dark, and our greatest city figuring out how to keep moving with subways down and schools closed.

But we are figuring it out - in New York and elsewhere. Displaced families are finding places to stay with relatives, friends and shelters run by public and private agencies. Businesses are reopening. People are checking in on their loved ones, and more often than not relieved to hear positive reports.

Preparedness wasn't perfect and relief hasn't been flawless, but they have been working. Any weather crisis will cause some damage -- and if we don't act to address climate change, the disasters will become more frequent and intense. We're not ready for the challenges of the future, but at least some elected officials like New York's Governor Cuomo are speaking to that issue. Today we need to focus on relief, in the near tomorrows on rebuilding, but soon after on the policy changes that can help ameliorate or prevent the intensifying impact of climate change.

That said, for all that we should be scared about, we can also be proud about what worked. Our civil society stepped up in ways that can make us proud and provide blueprints for the society we want to live in every day.

What worked:

1. People had enough faith in their government. Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Cuomo and Governor Christie all delivered serious, competent and reassuring assessments. Their agency heads took their roles seriously. So we, the public, took them seriously as well. In a country that has a record-low approval rating for Congress, we believed in our government this past week. We listened to their advice, trusted their information and benefited as a result.

On a federal level, President Obama and FEMA reminded Americans what government is there to do - and people were comforted and safer because they had faith in those elected and assigned to protect, support and represent us.

2. Our first responders did their job. Police, firefighters and emergency workers deserve endless praise for their focus, professionalism and tireless courage this week. We rely on public sector employees who are trained, organized and devoted - and they were there for us. By all accounts, they helped save lives without regard to the race, economics or political beliefs of those they served.

We need to make sure to recruit, train and compensate our first responders in ways that ensure they remain the top-notch public servants we need.

3. Partisanship didn't get in the way. Governor Christie has been applauded for his praise of and cooperation with President Obama. It says something about our assumptions of partisanship that such a posture should be considered special. The president didn't react to states based on their leanings in electoral polls. The governor didn't try to gain political points for his top-ticket candidate. They both did what they are supposed to do: govern.

In general, that shouldn't deserve an ovation, but given the circumstances, why not? Thank you for showing the public what we elect our leaders to do.

4. Corporations acted as good citizens. Banks have notified their customers about financial support they can provide, and have offered to forgive late payments. Google and Twitter worked with New York City to provide pro bono services to communicate about the storm and relief efforts. Many businesses have put their employees' safety first and not badgered them into making it to work in unsafe conditions.

In times of crisis, we need our private sector to work hand-in-hand with the public sector for our common good. They have been showing that willingness now. We want them to behave similarly in tackling challenges like rampant foreclosures, medical costs and bankruptcy…we know they can be good citizens, and should thank them now and urge them to continue.

5. People pulled together. When our neighbors are in trouble, our instinct is to help them. To open our doors and our arms, to check on them, to give to them. Throughout the height of the storm, strangers reached out to one another. In the aftermath, people are donating time, money, blood, supplies. For all the criticism the Romney campaign justifiably receives for their relief/campaign hybrid event, it did show that people in Ohio and everywhere wanted to do something to help their fellow Americans.

Even as the traffic crawls through our city streets, as businesses stress over closures, as parents go crazy over childcare, we witness kindness all around us. People are striking up conversations on street corners, helping lift branches off their neighbors' cars and just offering smiles and supportive greetings.

While writing this post at a cafe on 4th Avenue in Brooklyn, I saw someone out the window chase down a pedestrian who had dropped a $10 bill on the ground. I'm sure that happens in New York every day, but it's especially encouraging to be reminded of random acts of kindness today.

The world we want is not one of escalating climate disasters, and we need to work to prevent it. But the society we want is one of trust, faith and cooperation - as we have seen these past few days - and we need to work to preserve that as well.


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Comments [9]

Michael from Queens, New York

I need to address elfisherman from Florida who has depicted us storm victims as crybabies waiting for our government handouts. Where is your sense of compassion? Our needs here in New York include restoring electricity so grandmothers don't need to carry gallons of water up seventeen flights of stairs; repairing subway tunnels so mothers don't have to walk fifteen miles to work; finding enough hospital beds because two of our hospitals needed to be evaculated; educating our children when schools have been damaged or are being occupied by shelter population; maintaining security when there are looters and non-functioning traffic lights; keeping people safe from sewage-filled floodwaters; and making sure all our citizens have the opportunity to exercise our right to vote on November 6 as guranteed by the Constitution. As someone who supports giving to faith-based organizions, you must have a sense of compassion for the basic needs of others. I appeal to that sense and request that you rescind your tactless remarks.

Nov. 04 2012 07:25 AM
Raejean from Severn, MD

And what did Obama actually DO other than show up for a few handshakes and hugs and his photo op to look presidential?

Nov. 04 2012 04:11 AM
elfisherman from Florida

No matter who wins this election. You people up there need to stand in the mess with your hands out! Wait for your government hand out. You might get the same response as those folks in New Orleans did. "NOT A DAMN THING".Katrina victims are still waiting. So why would you vote for OBAMA. At least Rommny asked Americans to contribute to one of the charities that actually will provide help. Guess what? IT'S NOT THE GOVERNMENT OR OBAMA. It is the very folks that can actually help! FAITH BASED OGANIZATIONS. Personally I believe before you ask for a government handout for your disaster you should take a look at how the midwestern states handled their floods.
Instead of waiting to get your hand out, get a shovel and start digging
building and rebuilding.

Nov. 01 2012 08:08 PM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

Now if only Chris could go down and b*tch-slap the obstructionists in Congress to get on board and move the country forward, maybe we could get somewhere.

Nov. 01 2012 05:45 PM
Me from New Jersey

For the people that call Christie a Traitor, you obviously don't live in NJ or ever needed help. I am a NJ state worker and Gov.Christie has never been my favorite person. He is rude, makes major cuts where the people of NJ really need it. But you have to give credit where credit is due. He worked hard and spoke frankly to and for the State of NJ prior to the storm. He responded quickly post-Sandy. Obama did the same. Maybe you haven't. seen the pictures of what NJ looks like. Think of it like this. A true parent does not sit around and watchch his or her hurt child suffer. You get up and do anyything and everything with whomever to make sure the child survives. And you're grateful to whoever comes to your rescue. Gov. Christie, I commend you. President Obama, thank you.

Nov. 01 2012 05:37 PM
J Quintana from North NJ

Amazing how, even through all thats going on, we still turn it into something about Romney. "Listener" who cares how Romney relates to similar sitauations? The fact of the matter is he has shown little to no support or concern for Sandy victims, instead he is busy chasing votes, and gunning for his next photo op. Meanwhile the rest of the nation (except yourself obviously)is consumed by the recent events. If you are referring to Obama's visit to NJ as a Photo Op you may want to consider the impact that had on PEOPLE in NJ. It meant the world to them to know their president is willing to be right there with them. If you recall President Bush refused to set foot on Louisiana soil because he was so concerned for his safety, he didnt even make an attempt to relate to those people who had no choice but to be on the ground. Lets also remember that it took Bush nearly a week to show his face in LA after Katrina, it took Obama 36hrs. Obama posed with people in photos when asked, and requested photos with people who commited exceptional and extraordinary acts of service and kindness for others. Get your head out of Romneys behind for a second and find a little bit of common courtesy, sense and regard for people. You didnt even express any empathy or compassion for the circumstances that many people in NJ are facing. Election is the farthest thing from their mind so stop forcing it down their throats.

Nov. 01 2012 12:48 PM

Christie is a TRAITOR! He needs to turn down all FEMA money! Watch Fox News and learn the truth - obummer is a kenyan born radical muslim socialist waging jihad against America from our WHITE House!

Join Mitt and our Tea Party Patriots and DEMAND additional tax cuts for the Job Creator class - lets get help to those that deserve it, not the lazy poor and "entitled" middle class who wont take personal responsibility for their lives - or these so called storm "victims" who want FEMA HANDOUTS!

Nov. 01 2012 12:11 PM

"Partisanship didn't get in the way"

Mitt Romney was a Republican Governor of liberal Massachusetts and worked with a Democratic legislature and the redoubtable Ted Kennedy and didn't need a hurricane or a looming election to successfully accomplish any of it. This all happened after Rpmney rescued the failing Winter Olympics and after a career of saving failing businesses.
A President showing up for an election year photo op while local government and communities do the heavy lifting is not leadership especially after the debacle in Benghazi that the President was singularly responsible for last September 11.

Nov. 01 2012 10:21 AM
David Mullin

Thank you Justin. Your article hits the proverbial nail on the head. It is sad we need a disaster to pull together. Life is a long road don't go around making potholes for others. Again thank you and may God bless all those affected by Sandy

Nov. 01 2012 08:10 AM

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