The media have thrilled to the sight of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie offering words of praise for President Barack Obama’s response to Hurricane Sandy. The prospect of the president’s tour of the devastation Wednesday has journalists and Obama supporters giddy with glee.
Viewing the event–as usual–through a purely political lens, the left’s pundits are celebrating their luck: could this be the October surprise that saves Obama?
Conservatives have largely ignored the supposed Christie-Obama bromance, because most understand that this is simply what elected leaders are supposed to do. Governors must look out for their states’ interests first, and in disasters, that means working closely with the federal government, including the president. Presidents are, likewise, supposed to do what they can to help, and rally the nation’s support without causing distraction.
So, when President Obama gave a moving address at a memorial for the victims of the Tucson shootings in January 2011, conservatives were united in their praise for his appeal to national unity–even though most also understood that his calls for “civility” fed an anti-Tea Party narrative, and that he had no intention of honoring them himself. Most leapt to embrace the president for doing what he had so rarely done before: his job.
In fact, conservatives only noticed the détente between Obama and Christie–who just last week offered Obama “a plane ticket back to Chicago”–once the left started acting as though it was some sort of defection, akin to Colin Powell’s endorsement of Obama in 2008 (which, unlike his endorsement in 2012, was significant and unexpected).
And so conservatives have begun, belatedly, wondering if there is some political edge to it.
But the truth about Christie’s outreach to Obama is blindingly obvious: Mitt Romney is now running away with this election, freeing Christie to praise the president without fear that doing so will tip the scales.
Romney’s lead in the national polls may appear small, but it is likely much more significant, since the electorate that shows up on Tuesday will include proportionally fewer Democrats than most polls have assumed thus far.
Conservatives are beginning to understand that, though few will say so openly, for fear of encouraging complacency among voters, or tempting superstition.
But it has been clear for a week–ever since Obama was presumed by the media to have “won” the second and third debates, while the polls continued to move in Romney’s direction–that the country had made up its mind, Intrade and the New York Times be dammed.
Democrats and journalists have clung desperately to one illusion after another–first, that Obama was winning in Ohio, until that was no longer true; next, that Obama had an edge in early voting, until that was wrong; and finally, that Obama had a stronger ground game, until that began to fall apart.
Now that Obama is on defense in blue states such as Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Oregon and Michigan, a Romney victory is within reach.
This, like everything Obama does (or does not do), is for political gain. Just last month, he visited areas of New Orleans hit by Hurricane Isaac a full week afterwards, and three days after Romney had already toured the area. He campaigned and raised money while Isaac produced heavy rains, storm surges and deadly floods. Since then, Benghazi and the first debate changed the race–and now it is in Obama’s interest to look engaged.
The problem is that everything Obama does now to show leadership on the hurricane merely highlights the fact that he abdicated that leadership on 9/11–not just in failing to assist the Ambassador and other Americans in Benghazi, but in capitulating to the anti-American mobs in Cairo and elsewhere by apologizing for an obscure video.
This visit is a reminder not of how Obama has governed, but how he might have governed. It is too late.
Chris Christie is doing the right thing for his state–and for his own re-election prospects next year. But he is also doing what he can afford to do, because he and Romney know they can look past Election Day to a nation that needs healing and new leadership.
What we are witnessing in Obama’s visit to New Jersey is, in fact, the first glimpse of the post-Obama era–when America can finally do what is right again, and for the right reasons.