Commentary Magazine


Topic: Hurricane Sandy

Christie Shouldn’t Bother Apologizing

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has never apologized for doing it before this and he isn’t starting now. When Christie told a Democratic heckler at an event commemorating the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy to “sit down and shut up,” it was more or less business as usual for the abrasive Republican who has said pretty much the same thing to opponents for years to the applause of his many fans. Yet with Christie giving indications that he is going ahead with a 2016 presidential run, the run-in with a noisy critic got the kind of negative attention that usually spells trouble for a national candidate. The dustup raises the question of whether it is time for him to start toning down the tough guy act. The answer here is that he shouldn’t bother trying.

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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has never apologized for doing it before this and he isn’t starting now. When Christie told a Democratic heckler at an event commemorating the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy to “sit down and shut up,” it was more or less business as usual for the abrasive Republican who has said pretty much the same thing to opponents for years to the applause of his many fans. Yet with Christie giving indications that he is going ahead with a 2016 presidential run, the run-in with a noisy critic got the kind of negative attention that usually spells trouble for a national candidate. The dustup raises the question of whether it is time for him to start toning down the tough guy act. The answer here is that he shouldn’t bother trying.

In discussing this incident it should be acknowledged that videos of similar Christie smack downs are not hard to find. They are what made him a YouTube star with a national following. Even many GOP conservatives who now despise him for his supposed moderation and who will never forgive Christie for his embrace of President Obama days before the 2012 presidential election used to cheer every time they saw the governor bulldoze anyone who had the temerity to ask a question he didn’t like. If we haven’t seen as much of this from him lately it is because the post-Bridgegate version of Christie has been a lot more subdued than previous incarnations. Getting back to yelling at critics, be they Democrats, teachers, union leaders, or ordinary citizens who didn’t fawn all over him shows that Christie is feeling more like himself these days now that he has been proven to have had no role in the bizarre scheme to cause a traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge last year.

Moreover the attention paid to the screaming match shows that he is still a major political star even if his name is nowhere on the ballot this November. The fact that Democrats and liberal groups were doing everything they could to treat the incident as proof that he isn’t fit to be president shows that they fear him as a general-election opponent. Moreover, at this stage of the 2016 election cycle where name recognition and keeping yourself in the public eye is vital it’s fair to say that no publicity is bad publicity as long as it doesn’t involve a scandal. And for all of the huffing and puffing about the awfulness of the confrontation, yelling at someone who is behaving as rudely as Christie’s heckler was doesn’t count as a scandal. Had he apologized as if it was some grievous offense, it would have been more damaging to him than his defiance since it would have shown that he knew that he was out of line and made things even worse the next time it happened, something that is about as certain as the sun rising in the east tomorrow morning.

But even if this wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened to Christie, the real reason why he shouldn’t bother apologizing isn’t such good news for the governor: No matter how good or bad his behavior will be over the course of the next two years, he isn’t going to be elected president either way.

His periodic screaming fits caused by his well known thin skin and intolerance of critics would be a major problem for anyone who wants to be president. As we’ve noted in this space before, the public may well tolerate and even like a candidate or an officeholder who doesn’t fit into the usual mold or who acts out every now then. But what will fly when you’re a Northeast governor won’t necessarily work when you’re asking the people to give you control of nuclear weapons instead of just a battalion of state troopers. If Christie were ever to compete seriously as a first-tier candidate in Republican primaries or in a general election, his lack of what is generally considered to be a presidential temperament would be a huge problem. The pressures of a presidential campaign and the certainty of hecklers and critics at every stop would force the thin-skinned governor to either alter his style in a manner that would cause him to lose much of his appeal or lead to daily blowups that would be entertaining but not have a good outcome.

To imagine that a candidate who has done so much to embitter the base of his party would ever win its presidential nomination is to engage in science fiction, not political science. While there is a path to that nomination for someone who isn’t a Tea Partier or dyed-in-the-wool social conservative, Christie has gone too far for that person to be him. Though he may run and can raise the kind of money to put on a credible campaign, it is hard to conjure up a scenario by which the truculent governor winds up outlasting the deep and talented field of Republican presidential contenders.

So Christie should just go on being himself, yelling at anyone he likes. Doing so will be easier on his digestion, good for journalists who cover him, and won’t stop the governor from winning an office to which he will never win election anyway.

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Why 2016 Talk Hasn’t Hurt Christie’s 2013

Cory Booker’s victory in the special Senate election held earlier this month to replace Frank Lautenberg was not a surprise. But to many, his margin of victory was. He struggled to meet expectations, and though the election was not close–Booker won by eleven percent–the clumsy nature of Booker’s campaign contributed to the perception that the Newark mayor was lucky he wasn’t contesting a competitive seat.

In contrast, Governor Chris Christie’s poll numbers remain remarkably strong a week out from his own reelection, especially for a Republican in blue Jersey. And today’s poll results, from Quinnipiac, highlight something else about the two elections: both Christie and Booker have national profiles, yet only Booker seems to have been successfully tagged as a “celebrity” politician. PolitickerNJ reports:

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Cory Booker’s victory in the special Senate election held earlier this month to replace Frank Lautenberg was not a surprise. But to many, his margin of victory was. He struggled to meet expectations, and though the election was not close–Booker won by eleven percent–the clumsy nature of Booker’s campaign contributed to the perception that the Newark mayor was lucky he wasn’t contesting a competitive seat.

In contrast, Governor Chris Christie’s poll numbers remain remarkably strong a week out from his own reelection, especially for a Republican in blue Jersey. And today’s poll results, from Quinnipiac, highlight something else about the two elections: both Christie and Booker have national profiles, yet only Booker seems to have been successfully tagged as a “celebrity” politician. PolitickerNJ reports:

Likely N.J. voters say 48-41 percent that they want to see Chris Christie run for president.

A Quinnipiac University poll released today shows that with the governor’s re-election seemingly in hand, respondents want him to run for the White House in 2016.

As for his race against Sen. Barbara Buono, Christie leads 64– 31 percent, the poll shows.

Christie gets a 65–29 percent favorability rating, as even 40 percent of Democrats have a favorable opinion, the poll shows.  Buono gets a negative 26–37 percent favorability rating, with 35 percent who don’t know enough about her to form an opinion.

“From the banks of the Delaware to the beaches of the Atlantic, New Jersey voters like their governor, Christopher Christie.  On the banks of the Potomac?  Less like the governor, but still a lot,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

At first glance Christie would appear to be more vulnerable to suspicions that he is tending to national aspirations. Republicans have been asking him to run for president for years now, and New Jersey is a highly Democratic state which tends to be hostile to conservatism. Yet Christie’s national profile hasn’t hampered his standing with NJ voters for a couple of reasons, one of which is unearthed by polls like this Quinnipiac survey: New Jerseyans actually want Christie to have national aspirations.

There’s logic to this: if voters in the state like Christie’s brand of politics, and he’d be term-limited out of office after two consecutive terms anyway, why not export the “Jersey Comeback?” Additionally, a Democrat who likes Christie might want to see him as the nominee of the other party, knowing that if the Democrats lost the presidential election he might be governed by Chris Christie again anyway.

That would be doubly true, presumably, for Jersey Republicans who would probably rather be governed by Christie than whoever replaces him and who would feel more confident in a general election with a candidate with crossover appeal and who could plausibly compete in the northeast.

So that’s one reason Christie wasn’t harmed by his national profile: voters want him to have that profile. But the other reason is that it is quite difficult to make the case that Christie’s possible national ambitions have caused him to neglect New Jersey. Today is, after all, also the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy’s destructive arrival on the Jersey Shore.

Though the storm hit close to the presidential election, Christie famously welcomed President Obama’s presence and praised the government’s response in true bipartisan–or, rather, nonpartisan–spirit. His response to the storm’s damage won justified plaudits from all corners of the state, but especially because it put to rest the idea that he couldn’t focus on his responsibilities as governor with the national spotlight calling. His response to Sandy was famous for how it riled the national GOP and needled congressional conservatives over funding.

That may hold him back in a Republican primary contest, of course. But it obviously wasn’t a drag on his gubernatorial reelection hopes.

There is also one more, less tangible aspect to Christie’s connection with the state’s voters: he is not shy about his genuine love for New Jersey. He gushes about Springsteen, but as I noted in 2011, a Fairleigh Dickinson survey found that Christie was more closely associated with New Jersey in the minds of the state’s inhabitants than even The Boss. At the time, the director of the poll remarked: “I was surprised because no person has ever had enough mentions to make the list — not Sinatra, not Springsteen, not Tony Soprano and not even Snooki.”

Few figures seem to embrace their Jerseyness the way Christie does. When Christie appeared on the Daily Show, Jon Stewart tried to shame Christie for the harsh ways he sometimes talks to his political antagonists. Christie responded: “I’m from New Jersey and so are you, and we don’t mince words.”

Of course, what has served him well in New Jersey could complicate the picture nationally. Conservative primary voters resent Christie’s embrace of the president and criticism of conservative darlings like Rand Paul, and Democrats who like Christie now may not be thrilled if a national primary reawakens them to his conservatism. Yet whatever the right’s beef with Christie’s move to the center, he is currently a pro-life fiscal conservative with a thirty-three point lead in New Jersey, a feat not so easy to dismiss.

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A May Day Reminder of OWS’s Failure

Last year, May Day was a cause for celebration for members of the group Occupy Wall Street. Even though they had been evicted from their home in Zuccotti Park several months prior, the movement that was created there had spread nationwide. Liberals hoped that OWS would become their version of the Tea Party. They were willing to look over the squalid conditions at OWS camps in New York and nationwide, the rampant vandalism, and most troubling, the rapes and sexual assaults that took place there while fellow liberals were simultaneously fear mongering over Republicans’ imagined “war on women.” On the second May Day since its formation, the movement, which portrayed itself as the voice of support for the bottom 99 percent of Americans, has fractured over some members’ desire to translate that vague declaration of support into disaster assistance for those affected by Hurricane Sandy. 

The aftermath of Sandy left unprecedented destruction in the New York area, and to its credit, the Occupy movement stepped in to provide much-needed coordination and relief with the formation of Occupy Sandy. In November I spoke to a local rabbi who had been coordinating relief for elderly residents trapped inside a high-rise apartment complex that wouldn’t end up meeting someone in a FEMA jacket for a full ten days after the storm. The response from government officials was shockingly meager and private organizations like Occupy Sandy were left trying to provide food, water and medical attention to those hardest hit by the storm. 

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Last year, May Day was a cause for celebration for members of the group Occupy Wall Street. Even though they had been evicted from their home in Zuccotti Park several months prior, the movement that was created there had spread nationwide. Liberals hoped that OWS would become their version of the Tea Party. They were willing to look over the squalid conditions at OWS camps in New York and nationwide, the rampant vandalism, and most troubling, the rapes and sexual assaults that took place there while fellow liberals were simultaneously fear mongering over Republicans’ imagined “war on women.” On the second May Day since its formation, the movement, which portrayed itself as the voice of support for the bottom 99 percent of Americans, has fractured over some members’ desire to translate that vague declaration of support into disaster assistance for those affected by Hurricane Sandy. 

The aftermath of Sandy left unprecedented destruction in the New York area, and to its credit, the Occupy movement stepped in to provide much-needed coordination and relief with the formation of Occupy Sandy. In November I spoke to a local rabbi who had been coordinating relief for elderly residents trapped inside a high-rise apartment complex that wouldn’t end up meeting someone in a FEMA jacket for a full ten days after the storm. The response from government officials was shockingly meager and private organizations like Occupy Sandy were left trying to provide food, water and medical attention to those hardest hit by the storm. 

Occupy Sandy was soon consumed with the same problems that plagued the movement that was full of catch-phrases but little in the form of tangible plans or organization. This hilarious segment on The Daily Show about class divisions at Zuccotti Park illustrates just how hypocritically ineffective the movement was at extinguishing inequality even within its own ranks. In the face of reality, many Occupiers learned just how impossible it would be to translate their ideals into reality. The New York Times reports:

The original Occupiers who remain have not just mellowed, they have abandoned some of the hallmarks of the organization, given up as unwieldy in a disaster situation. Occupy Sandy’s “free store” on Staten Island was closed in part because people took advantage of it, said Howie Ray, who runs a volunteer hot line for the group. The nightly roundup e-mails of their work, part of a commitment to transparency, have halted because they were impractical and time-consuming, Mr. Ray said.

Many of those initial divisions were exacerbated by the efforts of those behind Occupy Sandy. According to the Times, many in the original Occupy movement were troubled by their Occupy Sandy counterparts’ “deals with the devil” in the form of working with and accepting donations from corporations like Home Depot and governmental agencies to provide relief to those most desperately in need. Some in OWS were willing to sacrifice their idealism for the sake of the greater good while others in the group, called the “core” of OWS by a member quoted by the Times, would much rather spend their time participating in drum circles at protests.

While the tragic fate of the 94 million victims of Communism were remembered yesterday, conservatives should take heart that here in the United States, the closest thing to Communism in decades, Occupy Wall Street, has destroyed itself over divisions over just how much they’re willing to help those in need. If that’s not a better representation of the true face of Communism, what is?

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Christie’s GOP Disconnect

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s temper tantrum about the temporary delay of action on the Hurricane Sandy relief bill earlier this week was depicted in some corners as an illustration of the disconnect between the Northeast and the southern and western base of the Republican Party. There was some truth in that. The bulk of the GOP caucus in the House doesn’t care much about the concerns of Northeast Republicans let alone those of anyone else in the region. That’s just one of many concerns that the GOP must confront as it starts thinking about how to win back the White House in 2016. But despite the party’s failings, Christie’s rant illustrates that the lack of communication is a two-way street.

Like his embrace of President Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Christie’s harangue about the failings of his party will play well in New Jersey. Indeed, the shift in recent months of the focus of the governor’s notoriously short temper from union bosses and liberals to right-wing Republicans—and the latter’s criticism of him—has been exactly what his re-election campaign needed. His approval ratings have reached the point where the most formidable Democrats in the state like Newark Mayor Cory Booker have abandoned the idea of running for governor. But if Christie is as serious about running for president in 2016 as many of his fans think he is, it’s time to realize that the conceit that he can be a moderate at home and a conservative in the rest of the country isn’t going to work.

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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s temper tantrum about the temporary delay of action on the Hurricane Sandy relief bill earlier this week was depicted in some corners as an illustration of the disconnect between the Northeast and the southern and western base of the Republican Party. There was some truth in that. The bulk of the GOP caucus in the House doesn’t care much about the concerns of Northeast Republicans let alone those of anyone else in the region. That’s just one of many concerns that the GOP must confront as it starts thinking about how to win back the White House in 2016. But despite the party’s failings, Christie’s rant illustrates that the lack of communication is a two-way street.

Like his embrace of President Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Christie’s harangue about the failings of his party will play well in New Jersey. Indeed, the shift in recent months of the focus of the governor’s notoriously short temper from union bosses and liberals to right-wing Republicans—and the latter’s criticism of him—has been exactly what his re-election campaign needed. His approval ratings have reached the point where the most formidable Democrats in the state like Newark Mayor Cory Booker have abandoned the idea of running for governor. But if Christie is as serious about running for president in 2016 as many of his fans think he is, it’s time to realize that the conceit that he can be a moderate at home and a conservative in the rest of the country isn’t going to work.

Christie isn’t the first blue state governor to run into this conundrum. Mitt Romney, whose presidential candidacy was famously left out of most of Christie’s keynote speech at last year’s Republican convention thought that it was possible to run to the left while seeking the approval of the voters of Massachusetts and then tack hard right once he was running for the presidency. While he was able to capture the GOP nod on his second try, the tag of flip-flopper haunted his campaigns and undermined his efforts to win the support of both conservatives and centrists.

Christie’s case is admittedly quite different. He was elected to the governorship in 2009 without giving up his pro-life beliefs and became a cult favorite among conservatives after that via YouTube videos in which he told off liberals who had the temerity to challenge his positions.

But unlike Romney, Christie had no intention of being a one-term governor. Though it is possible that approval of his commonsense approach to budgetary matters might have earned him re-election anyway, it’s more than obvious that he decided that the only guarantee of victory is to create some distance between himself and elements of his party that are unpopular in New Jersey. While the hurricane incident could have been explained away as an extraordinary circumstance that was caused more the emergency than any political calculation, this latest example of Christie denouncing Republicans is part of his re-election strategy. The fact that Congress subsequently passed the bill will enhance his already strong position at home.

He will have little cause to regret his attacks on Republicans in 2013 and it’s likely that a smashing re-election victory this November will fuel more Christie for President talk among Republicans who hope his unique appeal is the GOP’s best hope for 2016.

But anyone who thinks his intemperate defense of a pork-laden bill and eagerness to separate himself from his party will be forgotten three years from now when Republicans are picking a presidential candidate is making assumptions that can’t be backed up. As Politico notes, conservatives are starting to realize that while it might have been amusing to watch Christie bully liberals, it isn’t so funny when they are the target. Every instance in which Christie attacks his party will provide fodder to primary opponents who will charge him with being exactly the opposite of his image: a two-faced politician who tailors his message to suit his audience’s tastes. The dynamic that leads Northeastern Republicans to run against their own party is something that is likely to haunt Christie if tries to follow in Romney’s footsteps. 

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Sandy Funding is Earmark Revival

Speaker John Boehner’s since-rescinded decision to put off a vote on a bill providing disaster relief to the victims of Hurricane Sandy turned out to be another black eye for House Republicans. The televised rage of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie over the move was just one among many condemnations that were shown over and again on TV news channels. It fit right into the prevailing media narrative about congressional dysfunction as well as the idea that the House is led by extremists who don’t care about the Northeast. Given that the hurricane gave an unanticipated boost to President Obama’s re-election (though it almost certainly didn’t affect the outcome), Sandy appears to be a gift that just keeps on giving for Democrats.

Boehner had no choice but to backtrack on allowing a vote on the relief bill since to stick to his position in the face of so much opposition, including the disagreement of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, was impossible. But before we file away this episode as just another example of an unforced error on the part of the GOP, it is vital that the objections to the bill be understood outside of the context of the grandstanding on the part of Christie and others, such as Rep. Peter King. Far from being a pure relief package that hard-hearted Republicans were obstructing, the bill is a stereotypical piece of legislative pork filled with funding for projects that are unrelated to recovery from Sandy’s devastation, but which feathers the nests of supporters of various senators and members of Congress as well as federal agencies. Seen in this light, the lambasting of Boehner is just a cover for a revival of a practice the speaker and other reform-minded members thought they had already gotten ride of: earmarking.

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Speaker John Boehner’s since-rescinded decision to put off a vote on a bill providing disaster relief to the victims of Hurricane Sandy turned out to be another black eye for House Republicans. The televised rage of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie over the move was just one among many condemnations that were shown over and again on TV news channels. It fit right into the prevailing media narrative about congressional dysfunction as well as the idea that the House is led by extremists who don’t care about the Northeast. Given that the hurricane gave an unanticipated boost to President Obama’s re-election (though it almost certainly didn’t affect the outcome), Sandy appears to be a gift that just keeps on giving for Democrats.

Boehner had no choice but to backtrack on allowing a vote on the relief bill since to stick to his position in the face of so much opposition, including the disagreement of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, was impossible. But before we file away this episode as just another example of an unforced error on the part of the GOP, it is vital that the objections to the bill be understood outside of the context of the grandstanding on the part of Christie and others, such as Rep. Peter King. Far from being a pure relief package that hard-hearted Republicans were obstructing, the bill is a stereotypical piece of legislative pork filled with funding for projects that are unrelated to recovery from Sandy’s devastation, but which feathers the nests of supporters of various senators and members of Congress as well as federal agencies. Seen in this light, the lambasting of Boehner is just a cover for a revival of a practice the speaker and other reform-minded members thought they had already gotten ride of: earmarking.

Earmarks had been banned by the House but under the cover of sympathy for Sandy, they have made a remarkable comeback. Here are just a few of the outrageous items that somehow were slipped into the $60.4 billion relief package:

 * $150 million for Alaskan fisheries

* $41 million for military facilities such as Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

* $8 million to buy cars for the Justice and Homeland Security departments

* $3.1 million for an animal disease center

* $2 million for repair of the roofs of the Smithsonian Institution museums

* $58 million for reforestation on private land

* $100 million for Head Start day care centers

* $17 billion for Community Development Block grants that act as slush funds for members of Congress

While much of the money in the bill is intended for and will go to genuine victims of Sandy, these items demonstrate that a great deal of the funds allocated here will not do so. That’s why the mockery of the calls for accountability by congressional critics of the bill is mere partisan flummery. The fact that such practices are traditional is no defense of their continuation.

The willingness of the mainstream media to jump on Boehner for slowing down the rush to pass this pork-laden bill gives the lie to all of the lip service being paid to the idea of reducing spending and ending the corruption endemic to the earmark process. Though relief for Sandy’s victims can and should be passed, natural disasters should not be used as a flimsy cover for corrupt earmarks and patronage schemes.

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The Paths of Christie and Booker Diverge

Newark Mayor Cory Booker has all but confirmed that he is planning to replace Frank Lautenberg in the Senate in 2014 rather than challenge Governor Chris Christie next year. Though many have suspected Booker would take this route all along, he seemed to be sending up a trial balloon in the last couple of months to gauge his chances against Christie. The verdict was nearly unanimous: Booker was far weaker than he thought, and Christie was far stronger than anyone had expected.

On Christie’s side, there is no question now that his embrace of President Obama during the fallout and recovery from Hurricane Sandy was a boon to his approval numbers in the state. It rankled Republicans around the country, but it rallied New Jerseyans. It also earned him plaudits from a rare corner for a conservative: the entertainment industry. Christie got a shoutout from his hero, Bruce Springsteen, and from Steven Spielberg, who called Christie his new hero. In the latest Fairleigh Dickinson poll, even a majority of registered Democrats approved of Christie. He capped off his good run with an endorsement from a private-sector union that endorsed Christie’s Democratic opponent in 2009, Jon Corzine.

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Newark Mayor Cory Booker has all but confirmed that he is planning to replace Frank Lautenberg in the Senate in 2014 rather than challenge Governor Chris Christie next year. Though many have suspected Booker would take this route all along, he seemed to be sending up a trial balloon in the last couple of months to gauge his chances against Christie. The verdict was nearly unanimous: Booker was far weaker than he thought, and Christie was far stronger than anyone had expected.

On Christie’s side, there is no question now that his embrace of President Obama during the fallout and recovery from Hurricane Sandy was a boon to his approval numbers in the state. It rankled Republicans around the country, but it rallied New Jerseyans. It also earned him plaudits from a rare corner for a conservative: the entertainment industry. Christie got a shoutout from his hero, Bruce Springsteen, and from Steven Spielberg, who called Christie his new hero. In the latest Fairleigh Dickinson poll, even a majority of registered Democrats approved of Christie. He capped off his good run with an endorsement from a private-sector union that endorsed Christie’s Democratic opponent in 2009, Jon Corzine.

Things have gone in the other direction for Booker. Last month I wrote about Booker’s addiction to Twitter and self-promotion and how it was starting diminish the seriousness of his work in Newark. Bethany followed up with a post about the silliness of Booker’s food stamp challenge, which demonstrated that Booker both did not understand the nature of the food stamp program and was allowing his competitive nature to get the better of him by daring his social media antagonists to do things he himself had proclaimed unhealthy or dangerous.

After that, other publications, including the New York Times, wrote their own (devastating) versions of the story. The upshot was that political observers believed, in the words of the Times, that Booker “is better suited to speechmaking in Washington than to governing a state.” And those were the Democrats, according to the Times.

For Booker, the Senate is not a bad consolation prize. He can gain valuable experience without having to fight too hard for his seat. (Just ask Bob Menendez how difficult it is for a Democrat to be dislodged from either of those seats.) From there, Booker can run for governor at a later time if he chooses, or he can remain in the Senate. Either way, it will raise his national profile and stop him from getting caught up in the kind of political stunts he’s been engaging in lately.

For Christie, the future is a bit tougher to predict. No Republican has an easy reelection campaign in New Jersey, no matter how strong Christie’s post-Sandy poll numbers–which even he acknowledged will come back down to earth–have looked. And if he does intend to run for president in 2016, he may find Republican primary voters still interested in punishing him for his embrace of Obama–especially if there’s a crowded field of conservatives in the race. Over at the Hill, Christian Heinze notes that Christie’s favorability ratings among Republicans and Democrats are fairly close, but others, like Marco Rubio and Bobby Jindal, earn high marks from Republicans without those suspicious-looking Democratic approval numbers to go along with them:

That’s not to say there should be a huge gap for a candidate, but ever since his Obama snuggle, Christie has seen a dip in his favorable ratings with Republicans, and drifting into McCain-land, circa 2000, isn’t going to be helpful for him in a ’16 primary — no matter how the press would lionize him.

Yes, first things first — he needs to win his reelection. But at some point, he’s going to have to start rubbing Spielberg the wrong way to get the GOP base back in his pocket.

Christie would have plenty of time and plenty of ammunition with which to do so. Reining in the public-sector unions, the way Christie has, is more impressive in New Jersey than in states with GOP-majority legislatures like Wisconsin and Michigan. Christie’s a budget-balancing tax cutter, which will make budget hawks happy. And since he is a social conservative, he will not have the baggage that other northeastern Republicans, like Mitt Romney, are often saddled with in GOP primary contests.

And there’s one more argument he can make. Democrats have a voter registration advantage of over 700,000 in New Jersey, yet the Democrats’ best and brightest still don’t want to run against him. Just imagine, Christie might say, what he could do in a fair fight.

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Crisis and Conservatism

On the morning of October 1, 1997, 16-year-old Luke Woodham of Pearl, Mississippi slit his mother’s throat, grabbed a rifle, loaded his pockets with ammo, and drove his dead mom’s car to Pearl High School. There he opened fire, killing two kids and injuring seven others. Woodham then got back in the car with the intention of heading to nearby Pearl Junior High, where he planned on becoming his own copycat. But he never got there. Woodham crashed his car when he saw another gun trained on him through the windshield. That gun belonged to Pearl High’s vice principal Joel Myrtle, who had got his Colt .45 out of his truck at the first sound of shots fired. Myrtle managed to subdue Woodham until police showed up. 

The similarities between the Pearl High School shooting and Friday’s massacre at Sandy Hook are strong. Depraved minds are rarely original. But the central difference between the two tragedies is important. Woodham, unlike Adam Lanza, was stopped mid-rampage by a law-abiding citizen with a gun. We can’t know how many innocent young lives the quick-thinking vice principal saved. While this doesn’t constitute an air-tight case for the availability of guns as defense against gun violence, it does remind us that such a case exists. It is a thoughtful case for saving lives, not ending them. Its defenders can adduce mounds of supporting data. And it is a case grounded in constitutional rights.

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On the morning of October 1, 1997, 16-year-old Luke Woodham of Pearl, Mississippi slit his mother’s throat, grabbed a rifle, loaded his pockets with ammo, and drove his dead mom’s car to Pearl High School. There he opened fire, killing two kids and injuring seven others. Woodham then got back in the car with the intention of heading to nearby Pearl Junior High, where he planned on becoming his own copycat. But he never got there. Woodham crashed his car when he saw another gun trained on him through the windshield. That gun belonged to Pearl High’s vice principal Joel Myrtle, who had got his Colt .45 out of his truck at the first sound of shots fired. Myrtle managed to subdue Woodham until police showed up. 

The similarities between the Pearl High School shooting and Friday’s massacre at Sandy Hook are strong. Depraved minds are rarely original. But the central difference between the two tragedies is important. Woodham, unlike Adam Lanza, was stopped mid-rampage by a law-abiding citizen with a gun. We can’t know how many innocent young lives the quick-thinking vice principal saved. While this doesn’t constitute an air-tight case for the availability of guns as defense against gun violence, it does remind us that such a case exists. It is a thoughtful case for saving lives, not ending them. Its defenders can adduce mounds of supporting data. And it is a case grounded in constitutional rights.

None of that means the “pro-gun” argument should prevail. But it should be heard and debated, and its adherents should be shown the same respect as gun-control advocates. Both groups, after all, want to see fewer Sandy Hooks.

And yet that’s not where we are. The current “debate” is mooted by its own terms: guns are the problem and fewer guns the solution. The only matters up for discussion are which guns to ban, how to enforce the ban, and are Second Amendment advocates cruel or just dumb. This is where we’ve been heading for a while. In March 2011, 48 hours after the post-earthquake explosion at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel reneged on extending the life of her country’s nuclear reactors. At the time, I wrote

Hysteria on the largest scale possible has become the default official response to all crises. A lay public furnished with near-instantaneous media coverage can be counted on to demand immediate and absolute measures so that the crisis can be scrubbed from consciousness, however crudely or illogically. And over-monitored leaders will be sure to comply. Today a politician can lose his job if he doesn’t swiftly change historical precedent to fit the frenzied misinterpretation of a still-breaking news story.

That’s where we are. Reactive, finger-snap solutionism. If a single nuclear plant explodes, immediately move to halt civilian nuclear energy. If a hurricane devastates the East Coast, demand climate-change legislation. If a spree-killer goes on a rampage, get rid of guns.

The problem is that weather is, scientifically speaking, a chaotic system. And so too is human interaction. There is no one solution for keeping the chaos at bay. But, believe it or not, conservatives have thoughtful proposals about mitigating chaos or reducing its negative impact on people. The very night that Hurricane Sandy hit, the New York Times published an editorial explaining that such events demonstrate the need for big government. But many conservatives believe that big government was itself partially to blame for the damage done—without federal flood insurance no one would have developed homes so dangerously close to the water in the first place. Scaling back big government is not a matter of short changing those who have it hard but of sparing them the negative effects of poorly executed government intervention. A similar idea informs pro-Second Amendment arguments. If the government takes guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens, only determined law-breakers will be armed in the event of attack.

The fault for not having real debate does not rest exclusively with progressive solutionists. It’s time for conservatives to drop their embattled and antagonistic posture. If they don’t want every crisis to automatically affirm progressive ideas they must acquaint Americans with why their own—sometimes, counterintuitive—ideas actually work for the good of the country.

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Sandy Aid Package Another Excuse for Pork

In the midst of the fiscal cliff negotiations, the Obama administration has provided us with a perfect example of why we’re in this situation in the first place. The president has put together a $60 billion emergency aid package for superstorm Sandy victims, which needs the approval of Congress. As with any large spending package, it’s filled with pork. ABC News first reported on the specifics of the bill, including the most outrageous requests:

$2 million to repair roof damage at Smithsonian buildings in Washington that pre-dates the storm; $4 million to repair sand berms and dunes at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida; and $41 million for clean-up and repairs at eight military bases along the storm’s path, including Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Small Business Administration is seeking a $50 million slice of the pie for its post-storm response efforts, including “Small Business Development Centers and Women’s Business Development Centers.”

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In the midst of the fiscal cliff negotiations, the Obama administration has provided us with a perfect example of why we’re in this situation in the first place. The president has put together a $60 billion emergency aid package for superstorm Sandy victims, which needs the approval of Congress. As with any large spending package, it’s filled with pork. ABC News first reported on the specifics of the bill, including the most outrageous requests:

$2 million to repair roof damage at Smithsonian buildings in Washington that pre-dates the storm; $4 million to repair sand berms and dunes at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida; and $41 million for clean-up and repairs at eight military bases along the storm’s path, including Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Small Business Administration is seeking a $50 million slice of the pie for its post-storm response efforts, including “Small Business Development Centers and Women’s Business Development Centers.”

Congressional Republicans concerned about the national debt and spending are now exactly where the Obama administration wants them–stuck between a rock and a hard place. Approving the bill adds unnecessary billions onto a package that was only meant to do one thing–provide emergency support to Northeast victims of the superstorm. Yet stopping the bill in the House would allow the president to portray congressional Republicans as out-of-touch political animals, denying victims of one of the worst storms in U.S. history assistance. The Obama administration’s response to Republican resistance to the package sounds exactly like any individual in debt and confused about how they got there:

“The aid to federal agencies is a very small percentage of the entire package,” the official told ABC News.

Just because the wasteful percentage of the package is quite small in comparison to the overall expenditures doesn’t mean that it should be passed as-is. The only way for Americans to stop digging ourselves into debt is by starting to distinguish needs from wants, and unfortunately that means that we might not have as many “Women’s Business Development Centers” as we might like. By trimming the fat, Americans can ensure that future generations will be at least able to provide for their needs, and maybe one day, their wants as well.

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Liberals and the Federal Favor Trap

Many conservatives have a conflicted attitude toward Jon Stewart. He can be clever, and he sometimes trains his sights on Democratic foibles, but for the most part the ridicule on his show is aimed at conservatives in public life. But Stewart’s transformation over the years into a hectoring, standard-issue liberal means his monologues and interviews often demonstrate clearly and pithily what conservatives don’t like about the big-government left.

And he did so last night, in his extended interview with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Stewart, ever in search of Republican hypocrisy, tried to tag Christie with the label because Christie accepted federal disaster relief funds after Hurricane Sandy but balked at setting up a state Obamacare exchange. This is how the conversation went:

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Many conservatives have a conflicted attitude toward Jon Stewart. He can be clever, and he sometimes trains his sights on Democratic foibles, but for the most part the ridicule on his show is aimed at conservatives in public life. But Stewart’s transformation over the years into a hectoring, standard-issue liberal means his monologues and interviews often demonstrate clearly and pithily what conservatives don’t like about the big-government left.

And he did so last night, in his extended interview with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Stewart, ever in search of Republican hypocrisy, tried to tag Christie with the label because Christie accepted federal disaster relief funds after Hurricane Sandy but balked at setting up a state Obamacare exchange. This is how the conversation went:

Stewart: So New Jersey is in trouble, and it needs the federal government to step in. And you go to them and you say I need this amount of money. And there’s some horse-trading. But for the most part, they’re going to deliver at least $30 billion to the state of New Jersey, wouldn’t you say? Or maybe even a little more?

Christie: I’m hopeful.

Stewart: At the same time, they want to set up exchanges for health insurance in New Jersey, and you don’t want to do that.

Christie: Well, I don’t want to do it right now.

Stewart: When they’re doing it.

Christie: Well, no. Here’s the issue, Jon, and why I vetoed it. I’m asking them a bunch of questions about how much this is going to cost and everything else, and they won’t answer my questions.

They argued for a bit about whether the Obama administration was being forthcoming enough, and how much money it would ultimately cost New Jersey to set up the exchange. Here is Stewart’s response:

Stewart: So my point to you is, but when you need it for hurricane relief, they don’t come to you and say: But wait a minute, how exactly is this going to go? What is the money going to go for? How are you going to spend it?

Christie: Sure they do.

Forget for a moment that Stewart was wrong, as Christie pointed out, and just peer into the mind of a contemporary liberal. Sure, the government will be happy to help the stranded, the people who just lost everything in a natural disaster, the people with nowhere to go. But first, says the liberal, don’t you think you should do something for the president?

Everything comes with strings attached, even in the case of a natural disaster. Christie pointed out that not setting up a state health-care exchange doesn’t prevent people from getting insurance through the federal exchange the government would set up instead. And he reminded Stewart that when other hurricanes and natural disasters hit around the country, the federal help to those states was paid for in part through New Jersey taxpayer dollars, so this is hardly a case of the victims being greedy.

Later on in the interview, the two came back to this subject. Stewart said he thinks Republicans don’t want the government to do anything unless they themselves need it, in which case their needs rise above those of others. Here’s the example Stewart puts forth to make his stand:

Stewart: For instance, two wars that were not paid for with tax cuts and all those things, yet God forbid a woman wants birth control paid for on her health-care plan, that’s government waste. Not everybody believes that their tax dollars are being paid correctly, but we live in a society.

Christie: But now what prevents us though, and what’s destructive about having a debate about that?

Christie’s answer was appropriate: Welcome, Jon Stewart, to a democracy. But notice Stewart’s logic: If fighting a war to defend the United States is the government’s responsibility, then so is taxpayer-funded birth control. If government’s job is to do anything, then its job is to do everything. And when the government helps its citizens, it expects that favor to be returned.

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Kristof in the Dark

Nicholas Kristof has one of the most prestigious perches in American journalism: a regular, twice-a-week column on the op-ed page of the New York Times. Yet on Wednesday he wrote a piece that, had it been turned in to a freshman expository writing class (if such things exist anymore), it would have deserved to have been flunked cold. It would appear to have been written off the top of his head, without any fact checking that I can discern. He just dipped deeply into his prejudices and hit the keyboard.

The column is about the perceived growing gap between the rich and the rest of us, this time manifested in the fact that an increasing number of  the prosperous have stand-by generators installed at their homes in case the power fails. Given the fact that I lost power for four days in August 2011 (Hurricane Irene), six days in October 2011 (the freak 10-inch snow fall), two days in July 2012 (a bad thunderstorm) and for nine days in October-November 2012 (Hurricane Sandy), a stand-by generator sounds like a damn good idea to me. (For Hurricane Sandy, I decamped from my cold, dark, waterless house to stay at the house of friends who were traveling and have a generator).

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Nicholas Kristof has one of the most prestigious perches in American journalism: a regular, twice-a-week column on the op-ed page of the New York Times. Yet on Wednesday he wrote a piece that, had it been turned in to a freshman expository writing class (if such things exist anymore), it would have deserved to have been flunked cold. It would appear to have been written off the top of his head, without any fact checking that I can discern. He just dipped deeply into his prejudices and hit the keyboard.

The column is about the perceived growing gap between the rich and the rest of us, this time manifested in the fact that an increasing number of  the prosperous have stand-by generators installed at their homes in case the power fails. Given the fact that I lost power for four days in August 2011 (Hurricane Irene), six days in October 2011 (the freak 10-inch snow fall), two days in July 2012 (a bad thunderstorm) and for nine days in October-November 2012 (Hurricane Sandy), a stand-by generator sounds like a damn good idea to me. (For Hurricane Sandy, I decamped from my cold, dark, waterless house to stay at the house of friends who were traveling and have a generator).

Kristof attributes the spread of auxiliary generators to … tax cuts for the rich! He writes:

That’s how things often work in America. Half-a-century of tax cuts focused on the wealthiest Americans leave us with third-rate public services, leading the wealthy to develop inefficient private workarounds.

Has Mr. Kristof never heard of an electric bill? Public utilities such as electricity are not paid for through taxes.  The problem is not lower taxes on the rich, but the fact that burying the wires would be prohibitively expensive  in many suburban areas. In my town (admittedly borderline exurbia) there are 66 miles of roads and about 2,500 houses. According to Popular Mechanics it would cost on average $724,000 per mile to bury the lines. That comes to $47,784,000 in my small town, or $19,113.60 per household. Increase everyone’s electric bill by $100 a month (more than doubling the average bill) and it would take 15 years to pay for the buried wires (ignoring interest costs, which would be very considerable). That’s just not going to happen.

So the rich, increasingly, are installing big, propane-fueled generators to power their whole spread, while the less rich buy generators at Sears that run on gasoline. You can get one for the less-than-princely sum of $500 that will power the necessities, such as lights, water pump, and refrigerator. That’s $500, Mr. Kristof, not $19,000 dollars.

Kristof goes on to give us the usual garbage about the rich not paying their fair share and climate change, etc. Any clever 10-year-old could design software that would produce liberal boilerplate of equal quality. And he would be happy to be paid a lot less than Mr. Kristof gets per column.

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In Christie’s World, It’s All About Chris

Who would have ever thought it? Underneath it all, the tough-guy governor and former prosecutor who doesn’t scruple at angrily lecturing teachers, parents, taxpayers, reporters and anyone else who dares to question his policies or motives is a sensitive soul who is as needy of love and understanding as a guest on “Oprah.” After years in the public eye spent flipping off his detractors and daring them to try and do something about it, Chris Christie now needs a hug.

That’s the upshot of an unintentionally hilarious analysis published today in the New York Times, in which we are told the New Jersey governor is “deeply misunderstood and wounded” by the lingering hostility he continues to face from Republicans who think he threw Mitt Romney under the bus in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, when he went out of his way to embrace and endorse President Obama. The accusations that Christie lost the election for the Republicans are preposterous since Romney’s problems were bigger than the hurricane. But it is hardly surprising that Christie doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about. As he demonstrated during the Republican National Convention and the subsequent presidential campaign, in Chris Christie’s world, it’s all about Chris. The governor’s tolerance for any other frame of reference is nonexistent. What is so telling about the subsequent controversy is not the resentment of many Republicans around the nation, but Christie being hurt by it.

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Who would have ever thought it? Underneath it all, the tough-guy governor and former prosecutor who doesn’t scruple at angrily lecturing teachers, parents, taxpayers, reporters and anyone else who dares to question his policies or motives is a sensitive soul who is as needy of love and understanding as a guest on “Oprah.” After years in the public eye spent flipping off his detractors and daring them to try and do something about it, Chris Christie now needs a hug.

That’s the upshot of an unintentionally hilarious analysis published today in the New York Times, in which we are told the New Jersey governor is “deeply misunderstood and wounded” by the lingering hostility he continues to face from Republicans who think he threw Mitt Romney under the bus in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, when he went out of his way to embrace and endorse President Obama. The accusations that Christie lost the election for the Republicans are preposterous since Romney’s problems were bigger than the hurricane. But it is hardly surprising that Christie doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about. As he demonstrated during the Republican National Convention and the subsequent presidential campaign, in Chris Christie’s world, it’s all about Chris. The governor’s tolerance for any other frame of reference is nonexistent. What is so telling about the subsequent controversy is not the resentment of many Republicans around the nation, but Christie being hurt by it.

Let’s specify that Christie may well have been completely sincere in his actions during the hurricane and that he felt genuine gratitude to the president for his response to the crisis, even if in retrospect the performance of FEMA during Sandy may not have been much more effective than it was during the Katrina disaster in 2005. He may have been “just doing his job,” but his shock at the reaction of Republicans who thought he overdid his thank you to Obama was hardly surprising given the context of a heated campaign.

I don’t think Christie was consciously undermining Romney, but I do believe his nod to the president was not unconnected to the needs of his own re-election campaign. He may or may not run for president in 2016, but he needs to win re-election in blue New Jersey next year, and giving Obama that much love didn’t hurt his standing among voters in the Garden State.

That is just common-sense politics and, as was the case with Mitt Romney’s experience in Massachusetts, the things a Republican who wants to be elected governor of a Democrat-dominated state must do and say are not going to be the same things he will say when running for president. But it says a lot about Christie that he is so bewildered by the fact that conservatives around the country are not happy with him right now.

Those same conservatives cheered Christie as they watched the YouTube videos where he brusquely trashed his opponents and dismissed their point of view. But now they are getting a taste of the same treatment from him and understanding the sense of entitlement that pervades his public persona. He is a politician who is not inclined to try to view the world from any one else’s perspective.

By the same token, that same character trait is responsible for Christie’s own lack of understanding of why so many Republicans are mad at him. Expecting to be cheered at the recent annual Republican Governor’s Conference in Las Vegas, he wound up getting the cold shoulder from many in the party. But rather than trying to understand their feelings, Christie is not backing down. That some in his camp feel the need to whine about it to the New York Times, of all papers, tells us a lot about how self-involved the governor and his entourage come across.

Christie has bigger problems than the grudge many Republicans are holding against him. He has a state that still must deal with the impact of the hurricane and a re-election race in which he may have to face off against a tough opponent like Newark Mayor Cory Booker. But if he survives that test and decides to run for president, as most people expect him to do, he may have to find a way to reach out to those Republicans he has offended. Unless his personality changes in the next few years, that’s not going to be easy.

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Why Isn’t Sandy Obama’s Katrina?

The pictures from New Orleans after Katrina were iconic. Stories breathlessly filed from the Superdome warned of rampant crimes, inadequate access to basic sanitation, even babies getting raped (which was later proven to be a rumor). CNN’s Anderson Cooper berated Senator Mary Landrieu on air about the government’s response to the storm. Spike Lee made an entire documentary about the impact the hurricane had on the city and its residents. Famously, during a telethon for Katrina’s victims, rapper Kanye West told viewers, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

The week before the election, Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast, bringing unprecedented destruction to the seaside communities in the tri-state area. Parts of New York City went dark, as sections of the city were completely submerged in flood waters for the first time in modern history. Seaside towns across the Jersey Shore lost their famous boardwalks in an instant, and in Seaside Heights, parts of a roller coaster ended up sucked into the ocean. 

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The pictures from New Orleans after Katrina were iconic. Stories breathlessly filed from the Superdome warned of rampant crimes, inadequate access to basic sanitation, even babies getting raped (which was later proven to be a rumor). CNN’s Anderson Cooper berated Senator Mary Landrieu on air about the government’s response to the storm. Spike Lee made an entire documentary about the impact the hurricane had on the city and its residents. Famously, during a telethon for Katrina’s victims, rapper Kanye West told viewers, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

The week before the election, Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast, bringing unprecedented destruction to the seaside communities in the tri-state area. Parts of New York City went dark, as sections of the city were completely submerged in flood waters for the first time in modern history. Seaside towns across the Jersey Shore lost their famous boardwalks in an instant, and in Seaside Heights, parts of a roller coaster ended up sucked into the ocean. 

After several days of dominating the news cycle, the nation moved on to the election, and now, to the unfolding scandal involving CIA Director David Petraeus. For those left in the worst of Sandy’s wake, no matter what CNN may be covering, few have had the ability to move on. The local New York City-centric blog Gothamist describes the situation in The Rockaways area of Queens:

“The city hasn’t reached out to us at all,” said Matt Calender, a Rockaway resident who helps direct a bustling relief effort from a house on Beach 96th Street. “The Red Cross gave us 500 blankets the other day. FEMA talked to us. But that’s it. We station volunteers here, but we also send people downtown, where there is immense need. If people come here we can actually give them something to do.”

After Katrina, President George W. Bush was lambasted for FEMA’s response to the storm. Those aware of the situation in Far Rockaway and other hard-hit areas of New York know that the situation isn’t much different than New Orleans post-Katrina. New York City Councilman James Sanders, who represents the Rockaways, gave a chilling interview to a Boston NPR affiliate, stating:

“FEMA did not arrive in a timely fashion, nor did the Red Cross,” Richards said. “If it wasn’t for everyday citizens coming out and giving us a hand, the Rockaways would be in a shape that is unfathomable.”

Richards said that FEMA didn’t arrive until last Thursday, and he says the agency initially set up in an area that was inaccessible to poorer residents.

“Every 24 hours that goes by, we get into a more desperate situation so FEMA has to respond quicker. I know we have a billion things to do but in a low-income area with 30 percent of the people on some sort of income subsidy we need them to move fast and move now,” Richards said.

FEMA was unavailable for comment.

Electricity is starting to return to the Rockaways, but many homes still lack heat and hot water. Gasoline is still in short supply.

“We’re running into a desperate situation, especially as winter starts to greet us,” Richards said. “[Our residents] are still sleeping in the cold – many of our children, our elderly! And not only is it cold, but they’re sleeping in wet apartments.”

Richards says the situation in public housing has also been dire. He said a 77-year-old man died on Saturday, because he fell down an unlit staircase. He is also concerned that many crimes may have gone unreported, because communication has been spotty with the New York City Housing Authority.

“No one will know how many rapes have happened in the Rockaways, how many burglaries, how many murders. No one will have accurate information on these things until months pass by after this post-Sandy era disappears,” Richards said.

Rabbi Shay Schachter, assistant rabbi at the Rockaways’ “White Shul” told me about the dire straits his community was in in the first nine days after the storm struck. FEMA only arrived the following Tuesday after the storm and initially had to rely on local relief groups like the Long Island JCC for information. Rabbi Schachter had been running groups of local students and volunteers into three 17-story buildings in his community, filled largely with poor and elderly residents. He told me that when they first arrived five days after the storm bringing food and water to residents “[they] looked at us like they haven’t seen food in five years.” Schachter was asked by many residents about how they could receive medical attention, medication and access to dialysis machines while trapped in their highrise apartments without working elevators. Before FEMA took over the building’s care a full ten days after the storm hit, one FEMA official told Schachter that he was certain they would find dead bodies inside, as elderly residents inside had no heat, food, or medical care. 

After the storm, before the election, the only public discussion regarding FEMA centered around Mitt Romney’s statements during a GOP primary debate, which were misinterpreted and misrepresented to suggest he wanted to abolish FEMA. Romney came under fire for the remarks and unfortunately, as Jonathan pointed out the day before the election, little political attention has been paid to FEMA’s undeniably slow response to Sandy. The logic of Romney’s suggestion that FEMA cannot (and has not in the past) promptly offer relief to victims of natural and man-made disasters in the U.S. has yet to be discussed in the media or by government officials. More than two weeks after the storm, the situation is growing increasingly dire for residents of the Rockaways as temperatures plummet.

With the media’s silence and the public’s amnesia over the impact of the hurricane, President Obama has once again received a free pass on yet another issue of national importance. The media’s outcry over the devastation after Katrina led to a massive influx of aid in the form of governmental agency involvement, subsidies, and private charitable organizations’ assistance. Without that outcry, the victims of Sandy should be wondering what kind of attention they would be receiving if the president’s party began with an R, not a D. 

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Will the Sandy Bounce Wear Off in Time?

For a few crucial days, the prevailing image of Hurricane Sandy in the minds of Americans was that of President Obama being embraced by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The gratitude expressed by the Republican for federal storm relief seemed to not only symbolize a new wave of bipartisanship, but also burnished the president’s image as a competent commander-in-chief. Nearly a week later, that airbrushed picture of the storm has now been replaced by a less pleasant tableau: residents of New York and New Jersey waiting in the cold for help that hasn’t come, with others standing on long lines for scarce gas. As former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani pointed out yesterday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency may have gotten some great press out of Sandy, but the brutal reality of the storm’s aftermath shows serious flaws in planning for the disaster. The shortages of drinkable water, working generators and gas has made life miserable for too many people.

There’s little doubt the first round of press coverage gave President Obama a tremendous lift last week just at the time when he needed it most. Almost all the national polls showed he gained a few points, knocking Mitt Romney out of the lead he had held since the first presidential debate. The question today as Americans vote is whether the lingering good feelings from that Christie embrace will have worn off by the time many voters step into the booth. The Sandy bounce turned out to be a genuine force in the election and probably the most potent “October surprise” in presidential politics since the last-minute revelation of George W. Bush’s drunk driving arrest as a young man on the eve of the 2000 election. But there may have been just enough time in between Christie’s embrace of Obama and Election Day for some of the sheen to fade from the picture.

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For a few crucial days, the prevailing image of Hurricane Sandy in the minds of Americans was that of President Obama being embraced by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The gratitude expressed by the Republican for federal storm relief seemed to not only symbolize a new wave of bipartisanship, but also burnished the president’s image as a competent commander-in-chief. Nearly a week later, that airbrushed picture of the storm has now been replaced by a less pleasant tableau: residents of New York and New Jersey waiting in the cold for help that hasn’t come, with others standing on long lines for scarce gas. As former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani pointed out yesterday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency may have gotten some great press out of Sandy, but the brutal reality of the storm’s aftermath shows serious flaws in planning for the disaster. The shortages of drinkable water, working generators and gas has made life miserable for too many people.

There’s little doubt the first round of press coverage gave President Obama a tremendous lift last week just at the time when he needed it most. Almost all the national polls showed he gained a few points, knocking Mitt Romney out of the lead he had held since the first presidential debate. The question today as Americans vote is whether the lingering good feelings from that Christie embrace will have worn off by the time many voters step into the booth. The Sandy bounce turned out to be a genuine force in the election and probably the most potent “October surprise” in presidential politics since the last-minute revelation of George W. Bush’s drunk driving arrest as a young man on the eve of the 2000 election. But there may have been just enough time in between Christie’s embrace of Obama and Election Day for some of the sheen to fade from the picture.

It may be that many Americans will not choose to blame the president for the post-Sandy disaster. There are other and probably better candidates for scapegoat, most principally New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The 24/7 news cycle may have moved on from the storm and back to the election this week after liberal journalists had already made their comparisons between Obama’s supposedly masterful handling of Sandy and George W. Bush’s Katrina fiasco. But the pictures of gas lines and homeless storm sufferers may have turned Obama’s advantage into a liability by the time voting began today.

As for the impact of the storm on voting in New York and New Jersey, speculation that it will depress vote totals in these blue states are neither here nor there. It should be remembered that some of the areas most heavily affected, like the borough of Staten Island in New York City, are actually GOP strongholds. Though the provisions for allowing homeless residents of both states to vote elsewhere may create chaos, the odds are it won’t have much impact on who wins the election.

Other factors will do far more to decide the result today than the storm. Turnout in the swing states for both parties will be crucial, as Democrats must recreate the partisan advantage they had in 2008 if the polls predicting an Obama victory are to be vindicated. Though the storm may have helped the president, the far less successful aftermath could have already erased that edge. The question for Romney is whether it happened quickly enough to allow him to gain back the ground he lost last week.

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Does Obama’s FEMA Deserve Applause?

As I wrote earlier today, there is little doubt that part of the reason why President Obama got a bounce of some sort from Hurricane Sandy is the perception that his administration did a much better job dealing with the emergency than President Bush did during Hurricane Katrina. This was largely the result of a complacent media that was content to portray the president as the hero of the occasion after his fly through New Jersey and the seal of approval he got from Governor Chris Christie. But Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, someone who knows a thing or two about what happens in a crisis, isn’t buying it.

Giuliani is frustrated not so much by the political spin of this story as by the spectacle of the citizens of his beloved New York City being left in need while the rest of the country “moves on” from the hurricane. As far as Giuliani is concerned, the actions of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) don’t deserve the laurels they have received from the media and for which the president is given credit. As Politico reports:

“The response since the time the president got all this praise and credit and press ops has been abysmal,” Giuliani said on Fox News Channel’s “America’s Newsroom.” “FEMA is as much a failure now as at the time of Katrina.”

Giuliani, a 2008 presidential candidate, said that he did not “understand” why New York was facing water, generators and gas shortages.

“It’s quite obvious they didn’t pre-plan for water, they didn’t pre-plan for the generators, they didn’t pre-plan for the gasoline,” he said.

He bashed Obama for losing “focus” on the subject.

“The president getting all this credit so early, maybe the first day or two he was paying attention, but the minute he got his credit, the minute he got his pat on his back, we had the same situation as we had in Benghazi,” Giuliani said. “He loses focus. He goes back to being campaigner-in-chief rather than commander-in-chief.”

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As I wrote earlier today, there is little doubt that part of the reason why President Obama got a bounce of some sort from Hurricane Sandy is the perception that his administration did a much better job dealing with the emergency than President Bush did during Hurricane Katrina. This was largely the result of a complacent media that was content to portray the president as the hero of the occasion after his fly through New Jersey and the seal of approval he got from Governor Chris Christie. But Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, someone who knows a thing or two about what happens in a crisis, isn’t buying it.

Giuliani is frustrated not so much by the political spin of this story as by the spectacle of the citizens of his beloved New York City being left in need while the rest of the country “moves on” from the hurricane. As far as Giuliani is concerned, the actions of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) don’t deserve the laurels they have received from the media and for which the president is given credit. As Politico reports:

“The response since the time the president got all this praise and credit and press ops has been abysmal,” Giuliani said on Fox News Channel’s “America’s Newsroom.” “FEMA is as much a failure now as at the time of Katrina.”

Giuliani, a 2008 presidential candidate, said that he did not “understand” why New York was facing water, generators and gas shortages.

“It’s quite obvious they didn’t pre-plan for water, they didn’t pre-plan for the generators, they didn’t pre-plan for the gasoline,” he said.

He bashed Obama for losing “focus” on the subject.

“The president getting all this credit so early, maybe the first day or two he was paying attention, but the minute he got his credit, the minute he got his pat on his back, we had the same situation as we had in Benghazi,” Giuliani said. “He loses focus. He goes back to being campaigner-in-chief rather than commander-in-chief.”

The push back against the narrative of Obama’s brilliant emergency response may be coming too late to alter the public’s view of events. But if it is coming late it is because, unlike the Democrats in 2005 during Katrina, Republicans have been reluctant to inject politics into a natural disaster. But if the plight of the people of New Orleans was all the fault of George W. Bush — even though most of the problems there were more the result of the complete collapse of state and local authority and the abandonment of their posts by first responders, then it is not inappropriate to ask why Obama gets a pass as residents of New York and New Jersey cope with a crisis that is far from under control.

No president deserves to be blamed for bad weather. But the ability of Obama to avoid responsibility for what remains a terrible mess can be directly attributed to his cheerleaders in the news media.

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GOP Should Blame the Media, Not Sandy

A week ago, as Hurricane Sandy headed up the East Coast, Mitt Romney looked to be consolidating his recent gains in the polls. A week later, with many still suffering from the impact of the storm, Romney’s momentum has ebbed and Democratic optimism is off the charts. Assuming that the Democrats are right and Romney loses, was this all the fault of the storm in which President Obama got to play commander-in-chief and take the credit for what has been depicted in the press as an effective federal response to the crisis?

The answer here is: not really. The storm didn’t hurt the president and certainly didn’t help Romney, as it took the focus off politics for a crucial few days (much as the hurricane that threatened parts of the country during the Republican National Convention at the end of August undermined the GOP’s hopes for pulling off a successful infomercial). But the reason it played so well for the president is directly related to the inherent advantages that have always made Romney’s effort an uphill climb: incumbency and a mainstream media in the tank for Obama and determined to portray him as successful even when the facts don’t justify the cheerleading. Though many conservatives have spent this year assuming the president was toast, this latest setback for Republicans is yet another reminder of how out of touch they were with political reality. The election is by no means the foregone conclusion that many liberals are claiming this morning; unless the Democrat turnout matches that of 2008, the pollsters and pundits predicting an Obama victory will look very foolish on Wednesday morning. But the impact of the hurricane on the race demonstrates that beating Obama required a little luck as well as a good candidate and a competent campaign.

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A week ago, as Hurricane Sandy headed up the East Coast, Mitt Romney looked to be consolidating his recent gains in the polls. A week later, with many still suffering from the impact of the storm, Romney’s momentum has ebbed and Democratic optimism is off the charts. Assuming that the Democrats are right and Romney loses, was this all the fault of the storm in which President Obama got to play commander-in-chief and take the credit for what has been depicted in the press as an effective federal response to the crisis?

The answer here is: not really. The storm didn’t hurt the president and certainly didn’t help Romney, as it took the focus off politics for a crucial few days (much as the hurricane that threatened parts of the country during the Republican National Convention at the end of August undermined the GOP’s hopes for pulling off a successful infomercial). But the reason it played so well for the president is directly related to the inherent advantages that have always made Romney’s effort an uphill climb: incumbency and a mainstream media in the tank for Obama and determined to portray him as successful even when the facts don’t justify the cheerleading. Though many conservatives have spent this year assuming the president was toast, this latest setback for Republicans is yet another reminder of how out of touch they were with political reality. The election is by no means the foregone conclusion that many liberals are claiming this morning; unless the Democrat turnout matches that of 2008, the pollsters and pundits predicting an Obama victory will look very foolish on Wednesday morning. But the impact of the hurricane on the race demonstrates that beating Obama required a little luck as well as a good candidate and a competent campaign.

Sandy’s impact was more than just a diversion from political business as usual. It was a chance for many in the mainstream media to trot out comparisons between the federal response to Sandy to that of the Bush administration to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. While there’s no question that the government was better prepared and was able to do what it could more quickly this time, the assumption that Bush deserved to be blamed for what happened in New Orleans while Obama deserves credit for the situation in New Jersey and New York is a partisan distortion. The bulk of the problems in New Orleans were the result of the abject failure of state and city first responders and officials. Yet the pictures of the devastation and the sufferers are still linked to the general perception of Bush’s incompetence. By contrast, the narrative in which Obama got to be the hero of Sandy doesn’t seem to be affected by the fact that many Americans are still without power or shelter a week after the storm.

Of course, blaming Obama for what’s happening in New Jersey and New York wouldn’t be any more fair than blaming Bush for the collapse of the levees in New Orleans or the fact that most of the police and firemen in that city fled rather than doing their duty. There are some things that really are beyond the scope of any president to control, and the weather is one of them. That’s true even for a president who promised that he could turn back the oceans, as Obama famously did when he accepted the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. But anyone who thinks the liberal media wouldn’t be blaming a GOP president for the plight of Sandy’s victims doesn’t understand much about American politics.

The point here is not just that the media gave Obama a boost last week, but to highlight the fact that throughout this campaign that is what they have done at virtually every point. Just as most of the mainstream media failed to follow up on the scandalous failure that led to the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, and then turned a blind eye to the administration’s politically motivated deceptions about it, there was never much chance that they wouldn’t use Sandy to help Obama.

Beating Obama has always meant overcoming the handicap of media bias as well as the inclination of many Americans not to unseat the first African-American president. If Romney falls short tomorrow, it will not be just the fault of a hurricane, but will also be due to the lack of a level playing field for the candidates on virtually any issue.

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Give the Cynicism A Rest

So, exactly what should Chris Christie have said and done when the president of the United States came to New Jersey to see the devastation after Sandy?

Given Obama a Rabin-to-Arafat style, I’m-forced-to-shake-your-hand-but-I’m-going-to-go-soak-mine-in-Clorox-afterwards greeting?

Said, “Thanks for dropping by, Barry. But I’m a Romney guy, and I can’t support your tax-and-spend domestic policy or your lily-livered foreign policy, so don’t let the door hit you on the way out”?

Oh, come on.

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So, exactly what should Chris Christie have said and done when the president of the United States came to New Jersey to see the devastation after Sandy?

Given Obama a Rabin-to-Arafat style, I’m-forced-to-shake-your-hand-but-I’m-going-to-go-soak-mine-in-Clorox-afterwards greeting?

Said, “Thanks for dropping by, Barry. But I’m a Romney guy, and I can’t support your tax-and-spend domestic policy or your lily-livered foreign policy, so don’t let the door hit you on the way out”?

Oh, come on.

The man is the governor of New Jersey. New Jerseyans are dead, or homeless, or without power, or without gas, or without food, or without water – or all of the above. There’s bacteria-laden sludge in the streets. The lovely towns of the Jersey Shore have been decimated.

What’s more, he’s actually from New Jersey, and he actually lives in New Jersey. So maybe he cares just a little about his home and its people — not just as voters, but as neighbors, family, friends and colleagues.

How about this? New Jersey and its citizens are suffering – and are going to go on suffering for a long time to come. It’s Christie’s job to do whatever it takes – including being gracious to Barack Obama – to help his state. And he did it. 

Can we please give the cynicism a rest for just a minute?

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What’s Going on With Chris Christie?

Those inclined to consider the talk about the embrace between New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and President Obama in the wake of Hurricane Sandy as being more the result of hyperactive political reporting on the eve of the election than a genuine controversy might have been right. But yesterday’s Politico story about the governor being Mitt Romney’s first choice to be his running mate lent credence to the notion that there was some substance to the notion that Christie was up to something. The anonymously sourced story seemed to indicate Christie was the likely veep nominee until late in the process when he was suddenly dropped in favor of Paul Ryan. The upshot of the piece seemed to be that Christie and his friends were mad about being used as decoys or thought he had been snubbed.

All this is leading some observers to not unreasonably connect the dots between this, Christie’s convention speech in which he barely mentioned Romney, and his much-publicized post-hurricane “bromance” with Obama. Whether they are right about that is an open question, but there is little doubt that if Christie doesn’t want Republican activists (whom presumably he will need if he runs for president in the future) holding a grudge against him for sandbagging their candidate in the last week of a close race, then he needs to listen to this New York Post editorial and give the country a loud and clear reminder that he wants Romney to win on Tuesday, not Obama.

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Those inclined to consider the talk about the embrace between New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and President Obama in the wake of Hurricane Sandy as being more the result of hyperactive political reporting on the eve of the election than a genuine controversy might have been right. But yesterday’s Politico story about the governor being Mitt Romney’s first choice to be his running mate lent credence to the notion that there was some substance to the notion that Christie was up to something. The anonymously sourced story seemed to indicate Christie was the likely veep nominee until late in the process when he was suddenly dropped in favor of Paul Ryan. The upshot of the piece seemed to be that Christie and his friends were mad about being used as decoys or thought he had been snubbed.

All this is leading some observers to not unreasonably connect the dots between this, Christie’s convention speech in which he barely mentioned Romney, and his much-publicized post-hurricane “bromance” with Obama. Whether they are right about that is an open question, but there is little doubt that if Christie doesn’t want Republican activists (whom presumably he will need if he runs for president in the future) holding a grudge against him for sandbagging their candidate in the last week of a close race, then he needs to listen to this New York Post editorial and give the country a loud and clear reminder that he wants Romney to win on Tuesday, not Obama.

In thinking about this story, we are inevitably forced to wonder who benefits from the leak? In doing so, we can certainly eliminate Romney or his campaign, since the story does nothing to help the GOP candidate. But does it help Christie? Perhaps.

It could be that Christie supporters are floating the story in order to point to his absence from the GOP as the reason why they think Romney will fall short on Election Day. Republicans should be unhappy about anyone in their party starting the blame game before rather than after the election (though some Democrats started doing so last month). But if this is the result of Christie seeking to score points at Romney’s expense in the week prior to the election, this is something many in the GOP aren’t going to forget.

While Christie’s decision to abandon any thought of politics in the wake of the hurricane was appropriate, he has to know that his lauding of Obama has been interpreted as a statement about his feelings about Romney. As I wrote on Friday, I think he is probably more focused on his re-election than on a putative run for president that may not come for four or eight years — or never materialize. Yet he needs to debunk that notion pronto. If he doesn’t — whether out of characteristic stubbornness or genuine pique at Romney for actual or perceived slights — he needs to understand that like their cartoon symbol the elephant, Republicans have long memories.

UPDATE:

As Reuters reports (h/t Politico), Chris Christie has made a statement that might pass the bar the New York Post editorial set about him needing to clarify his stand on the election:

I’m a Republican and I have endorsed Mitt Romney, I support him and I intend to vote for him on Tuesday,” said Christie, interviewed in his home state by a visiting Israeli television reporter.

That may go a long way toward tamping down the controversy but it will also still leave a lot of people wondering about Christie’s motives as well as the source for the Politico story about the vice presidential nomination. One suspects that if Romney loses, we won’t have heard the last of this.

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Storm Exposes the Magnitude of Bloomberg’s Failure to Govern

Questions surrounding any public crisis hew closely to the schedule of the crisis itself. So when Hurricane Sandy was approaching the East Coast last week, everyone wanted to know whether the affected areas were adequately prepared. During the storm itself, people wondered what the damage was going to be. And in the wake of the storm, all attention is paid to reaction and recovery efforts. Since those efforts now appear to have hit some unexpected problems, it’s natural that the earlier questions have receded to the background.

But they shouldn’t be forgotten. Because for all the comparisons of Michael Bloomberg to Rudy Giuliani, who led New York—and the nation—through the early hours after 9/11, it’s worth recalling that a big part of the reason Giuliani responded so well was because he was intent on getting the city and its employees ready for anything. When that “anything” struck, as it did a couple of times in Giuliani’s tenure, America’s Mayor struck back. It is here, too, where Bloomberg fails spectacularly to fill the shoes of Rudy Giuliani.

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Questions surrounding any public crisis hew closely to the schedule of the crisis itself. So when Hurricane Sandy was approaching the East Coast last week, everyone wanted to know whether the affected areas were adequately prepared. During the storm itself, people wondered what the damage was going to be. And in the wake of the storm, all attention is paid to reaction and recovery efforts. Since those efforts now appear to have hit some unexpected problems, it’s natural that the earlier questions have receded to the background.

But they shouldn’t be forgotten. Because for all the comparisons of Michael Bloomberg to Rudy Giuliani, who led New York—and the nation—through the early hours after 9/11, it’s worth recalling that a big part of the reason Giuliani responded so well was because he was intent on getting the city and its employees ready for anything. When that “anything” struck, as it did a couple of times in Giuliani’s tenure, America’s Mayor struck back. It is here, too, where Bloomberg fails spectacularly to fill the shoes of Rudy Giuliani.

As Fred Siegel writes in his book on the Giuliani years, the mayor “had been talking and thinking about the problem of terrorism—something to which most New Yorkers were oblivious—from literally his first day in office. The city’s largely successful response to 9/11 was the product of years of preparation.”

And it wasn’t just preparation for terrorism. Siegel writes of the behind-the-scenes work that readied the city for just about any anything conceivable. In 1999, a heat wave led to power outages in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan that totaled about 300,000. Giuliani took action to prevent the power outages from taking out Brooklyn as well, and then rallied the city to the Heights. Rather than the looting that had taken place in New York in the past, the city remained under control with Giuliani working around the clock and winning the cooperation of the residents of the Heights.

The city’s Department of Health developed a “syndromic surveillance system” to prepare for chemical or biological attacks. When West Nile virus hit the city (also in 1999), the response was immediate and helped contain the virus. New York’s response, as in other cases, was praised as a model as other cities battled West Nile that year.

Leading up to the Y2K scare, the city, led by Giuliani, Jerry Hauer, the director of the city’s Office of Emergency Management, and Deputy Mayor Joe Lhota (who now heads the city’s MTA), prepared for several possible terrorist attacks and other emergencies on New Year’s, including a gas attack at the World Trade Center that assumed 1,000 injured. Lhota said they practiced and prepared like a football team. “If any city was ready for trouble,” Siegel writes, “it was New York.”

On New Year’s Eve, while Giuliani was overseeing events in Times Square, Siegel writes:

Hauer and Deputy Mayor Joe Lhota were in the World Trade Center command post accompanied by three hundred crisis managers from city departments, Con Edison, Verizon, the Red Cross, the Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the FBI, and the National Guard. And although the public didn’t know it, the National Guard had been quietly pre-positioning in Brooklyn as part of an emergency plan for evacuating Manhattan.

Nothing happened that night. But Giuliani’s team and the city “had passed the test,” Siegel writes. “Gotham was ready for a future emergency.”

So while it’s true that Bloomberg’s response pales in comparison to that of Giuliani, it’s not just the ability to inspire and the natural instincts of a leader that separate the two men. Stories like this one in the New York Times, which discuss the warnings that the city was vulnerable to a storm like Sandy long before this year’s hurricane hit radar screens, will likely follow Bloomberg as well. And the lack of preparation will be especially inexcusable for Bloomberg, who has stomped around claiming that the storm was a result of the very climate change he has been warning about for years. If he was so sure about coming climate change storms, why wasn’t he ready for this one?

This is the most damning paragraph from that story:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is known worldwide for his broad environmental vision. But one former official said it had been difficult to move from theoretical planning to concrete actions, and it was hoped that the storm this week would change that.

Bloomberg knew the dangers, according to this official, and spent years talking about it in the abstract. But he didn’t take any concrete action, instead satisfied to wag his finger at others.

So yes, Bloomberg is an underwhelming leader in the city’s time of need. But if these reports are true, he has failed this city on a much deeper, and much more consequential, level. Though Bloomberg obviously didn’t learn from his predecessor’s successes, New Yorkers can only hope that the next mayor learns from Bloomberg’s failures.

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A Marathon During a Humanitarian Disaster? Yes, Says Bloomberg

For New Yorkers, the suffering of Sandy is everywhere and is still far from over. The election is four days away and the national media has largely shifted its concern from the heartache on the East Coast to the presidential race. The horror stories are growing, and at the same time, growing more silent because of a distracted press.

Yesterday, while Mayor Mike Bloomberg, was promoting his endorsement of President Obama, his city within a city, trapped in darkness, dissolved further into darkness. Residents of lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island have been battered. They have no power, no gas to run their cars or generators (if they have them, most do not), no cell phone power to contact their families, almost no access to public transportation and very tenuous access to clean water and food. Many are watching the situation devolve into a Katrina-like scenario, but on a wider scale.

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For New Yorkers, the suffering of Sandy is everywhere and is still far from over. The election is four days away and the national media has largely shifted its concern from the heartache on the East Coast to the presidential race. The horror stories are growing, and at the same time, growing more silent because of a distracted press.

Yesterday, while Mayor Mike Bloomberg, was promoting his endorsement of President Obama, his city within a city, trapped in darkness, dissolved further into darkness. Residents of lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island have been battered. They have no power, no gas to run their cars or generators (if they have them, most do not), no cell phone power to contact their families, almost no access to public transportation and very tenuous access to clean water and food. Many are watching the situation devolve into a Katrina-like scenario, but on a wider scale.

In the powerless neighborhoods of New York, especially in the public housing projects, life is beyond recognizable from a week ago. Elevators to high-rise buildings are inoperable, water and sewage is cut off, and there is for many, no end in sight. Yesterday the National Guard arrived to bring food and water for the first time. Residents waited in long lines for hours to claim it. Those who could not make it down flights of stairs to do so, the elderly and disabled, are especially vulnerable.

There is a massive reallocation of resources about to take place. Generators and food trucks are being disbursed this weekend in New York City. For Sandy survivors? No. For runners in the New York City Marathon. Mayor Bloomberg, in his infinite wisdom, has decided to divert desperately needed resources during an unprecedented tragedy to a marathon. The route these runners will take brings them through neighborhoods, past homes and apartments, that were destroyed a week prior. These runners currently have reservations for hotel rooms that are occupied by those displaced from their homes, many hotels are honoring these reservations, and if they are not, the hotels are forced to fight with marathon attendees to keep evacuees housed in their hotels. These runners will be protected by a police department that is already unable to protect homes and businesses from looting.

While Mayor Bloomberg might be happy to give his endorsement to President Obama, it may not be so wise for Obama to tout this endorsement. The outcry over Bloomberg’s handling of Sandy is steadily growing. Before she struck, experts were questioning his preparedness and seriousness about the storm. While he was busy promoting the president yesterday, the bodies of two toddlers in Staten Island were discovered in the marsh, swept out their mother’s arms during the storm. Instead of comforting the family of an off-duty NYPD officer who died protecting his family, prior to that officer’s funeral, Bloomberg was holding yet another press conference.

This weekend’s marathon is the last straw for a city stretched to its limits. Mayor Bloomberg, it’s time to take a lesson from your predecessor. After 9/11, Americans fell in love with Rudy Guliani. That kind of courage and leadership is something this city desperately needs. Through sheer force of will, New Yorkers are pulling through this test, and they will pass it. Mayor Bloomberg, on the other hand, has already failed.

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The Resilient City-Dwellers of New York

I would like to expand on the point that John Steele Gordon, my fellow resident of Westchester County, made in this post about the toughness of New Yorkers. It is a point I could not agree with more–and it is demonstrated not only by the response to superstorm Sandy but, even more magnificently, by the response to 9/11 which was far more devastating in terms of lives lost. Yet New Yorkers did not panic, at least not for long, and they did not flee the city in droves, as some had predicted would happen after the worst attack ever on American soil. Instead, more than a decade after 9/11 the city is more vibrant than ever–and there is no doubt that we will come back, and come back quickly, from the damage caused by this week’s storm.

All of this is, on some level, to state the obvious. But it actually runs counter to a long and important strain of American thought. From Thomas Jefferson in the eighteenth century to country and Western musicians in the present day, there has been a long line of people extolling the virtues of rural life and damning big cities, especially big Northeastern cities, as the cesspool of humanity. Many conservatives, especially in the South, Midwest, and mountain West, are especially prone to adopt the argument that small towns are the repositories of American strength, virtue, and piety while cities are dens of quasi-communism, free love, drugs, atheism, and everything else that’s wrong with humanity.

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I would like to expand on the point that John Steele Gordon, my fellow resident of Westchester County, made in this post about the toughness of New Yorkers. It is a point I could not agree with more–and it is demonstrated not only by the response to superstorm Sandy but, even more magnificently, by the response to 9/11 which was far more devastating in terms of lives lost. Yet New Yorkers did not panic, at least not for long, and they did not flee the city in droves, as some had predicted would happen after the worst attack ever on American soil. Instead, more than a decade after 9/11 the city is more vibrant than ever–and there is no doubt that we will come back, and come back quickly, from the damage caused by this week’s storm.

All of this is, on some level, to state the obvious. But it actually runs counter to a long and important strain of American thought. From Thomas Jefferson in the eighteenth century to country and Western musicians in the present day, there has been a long line of people extolling the virtues of rural life and damning big cities, especially big Northeastern cities, as the cesspool of humanity. Many conservatives, especially in the South, Midwest, and mountain West, are especially prone to adopt the argument that small towns are the repositories of American strength, virtue, and piety while cities are dens of quasi-communism, free love, drugs, atheism, and everything else that’s wrong with humanity.

This argument has a shred of truth to it, because there is no doubt that cities have generally been more tolerant of a variety of what would today be called alternative lifestyles, facilitating not only great artistic development but also brothels, drug dens, saloons, and other not-so-virtuous establishments. Those exist in small towns, too, but not in such great abundance. There is no doubt that there is a lot more sinning, if I may use that anachronistic term, in cities–but then there is a lot more of everything else too, including working out in gyms and working long hours in offices. 

Yet there is no evidence–at least none that I have found–that big city dwellers are any less virtuous on the whole, less patriotic, or less resilient than those who live on farms or in smaller communities. Indeed, just to get through their day, residents of New York have to weather all sorts of annoyances that would be unthinkable to those who live in rural areas–from having to shlep groceries home by cart or taxi to having to deal with aggressive panhandlers in the subways to having to deal with vast throngs on Fifth Avenue. Admittedly in the case of New York all those annoyances have decreased over the years, ever since Rudolph Giuliani sent crime plummeting to historic lows, and now new services like Freshdirect (for groceries) and Seamless (for restaurant delivery) have made apartment living exceedingly convenient.

Nevertheless, every day tourists are overwhelmed by the sheer scale of New York, by the number of people moving in all directions, by the endless day-and-night buzz of activity–and though most of them no doubt enjoy their New York vacations, many are also happy to go back to the less hectic pace of their lives elsewhere. There’s nothing wrong with preferring to liver in a smaller community–but let’s banish the mistaken idea that those who reside in a mega-city like New York are wimps or degenerates. The kind of toughness that New Yorkers need simply to get through daily life comes shining through in a crisis, whether 9/11 or Sandy.

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