Hurricane Sandy: When Politicians Rise and October Surprises

President Obama may have accidentally stated on air that Kanye West is a “Jackass” — but he certainly took note of what Kanye and so many Americans said about how George W. Bush handled the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  Because he is not making the same mistake as his predecessor.  By all accounts President Obama has stepped up to take care of the millions of Americans affected by Hurricane Sandy and put his campaigning aside. But don’t just take my word for it…

Listen to the outspoken, former Obama-trashing, republican Governor of New Jersey.   Chris Christie, who gave the Keynote speech at the GOP presidential convention this summer, has been singing Obama’s praises to the highest order for three days.  Christie has not just risen above party politics, he has put aside his personal alliance with Governor Mitt Romney to call the President’s efforts “Outstanding” and speak of his administration as “Wonderful”.   He has also given personal testament to the late hours both the president and the employees of FEMA have been working to get whatever resources they could to the state of New Jersey.

To understand how much of a leap above the fray this is for Governor Christie, (who is sort of like the Boris Johnson of American Governors if you watched the London Olympics) remember that two months ago Christie flat-out stated Obama “lacks the abilities needed to lead the nation effectively.” 

Yet today these two men stood on a tarmac, shaking hands before boarding a helicopter together, to survey how to help the hardest hit state in the nation after a devastating storm.

I have no doubt there will be a backlash for both of these politicians when the goodwill that this tragic, on-going and fatal, national disaster has given rise to settles down.  But, today, I can’t help but see them as true leaders and an example for my children.

As parents we all try to instill in our kids a sense of personal responsibility.  We often also try to give them a voice of reason, and good conscious, that they might refer back to when a mob mentality would be so easy to follow despite it often being hurtful or wrong.  Because criticizing and bullying is easy when everyone is doing it, which sadly happens most of the time in election campaigns today.

The “with-us-or-against-us” harshness of party politics today (which could just as easily be called gang politics) that forces public servants to unilaterally subscribe to every issue conservatives and liberals champion – is removing individual politicians ability to use their own sense of right and wrong, as well as call upon their personal integrity.  Which feels like a No-Child-Left-Behind style of electing leaders.

And although one could argue that both the President of the United States and the Governor of New Jersey are campaigning for the job they may both want next by standing so tall, and being so hands on about the recovery efforts post Hurricane Sandy – this is a campaign strategy I would much rather see.

Christie went so far as to tell Fox News: “I’ve got a job to do here in New Jersey that’s much bigger than presidential politics, and I could care less about any of that stuff. I’ve got 2.4 million people out of power. I’ve got devastation on the Shore. I’ve got floods in the northern part of my state. If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics, then you don’t know me.”  Which I’m betting is what all people in New Jersey, not just those who vote republican, would like to hear from their leader in this time of crisis.

Meanwhile, Governor Romney has continued to campaign for the presidency, although he did change the name of at least one ralley to a Storm Relief Event and boxed up some goods, to ship somewhere, right after stating his campaign messages.  But Romney’s hands are tied this week as he can’t speak to disaster relief since he campaigned for the privatization of FEMA during the republican primaries which would leave emergency aid in the hands of companies that would make money off Americans in devastating circumstances.  As ludicrous as that sounds, if private capital was a core belief of governor Romney’s, this might be the time to start raising some funds, not just paper goods, to get the rebuild on. Instead he has scurried away from reporters relentless questions in the past few days about his natural disaster plan.  Paul Ryan, running as VP on Romney’s ticket, who proposed to virtually decimate FEMA by cutting it’s budget by 35% during the primaries has also avoided any leadership role in the face of this storm or talk about his former plans to cut funds.

Which is exactly what’s supposed to happen about this time in every United States presidential election. That would be the other kind of “ghost” that comes to town sometime before Halloween every four years, that is referred to as the “October surprise”. Which is any news event that suddenly, and surprisingly, changes the landscape of the eminent election.  Political commentators will no doubt refer to Hurricane Sandy as 2012’s October surprise.  But as a mother of three, whom I worry don’t regularly see enough examples of true leadership in our lawmakers, the October surprise I will speak to my young ones about is the ability to show loyalty to those you are responsible for. Even if you have to go against the grain to do so.

Read More of Diane Farr’s writing about politics, pop-culture and pee-pee trees at  Follow her at @GetDianeFarr or

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