I am delighted with the collaboration between Governor Christie of New Jersey and President Obama to rebuild the parts of New Jersey devastated by Hurricane Sandy. They demonstrate the power of collaborative funding between the Federal, State and Local governments and the private insurance industry toward a common purpose. This is how it should be and how it has been in our country over the years. Yet, people are so surprised and it becomes newsworthy when our leaders are doing exactly what we want them to do; be leaders and not politicians.
Part of the problem is the news media. Conflict sells. One of the editors of Times Magazine once said the main stream media is not as biased politically as some people say. Where they are biased is toward conflict. The key problem, though, is the political parties. They must divide to sell. If the other party in power says its dark, the opposing party must say it is light. There is a strong tendency to make every issue a contest even when it should not be. Obamacare, for example, is largely a Republican idea, with a variation that is working pretty well in Massachusetts. Both Obamacare and Romneycare were built on a concept GOP Senator Bob Dole presented in the 1990’s as an alternative to National Health Care proposed by President Clinton. Yet, the President gets the law passed and the GOP nows thinks it is a horrible idea.
Getting back to Christie and Obama’s “bromance” as it is now called, the Governor and President working together is how it should be in all major issues that impact a state. How can money and resources be leveraged to do the most good? Leverage is a key word in most investments. Our country was built on leveraging public and private money, especially in times of tragedy where significant investment is needed. When you are building major assets, pooling finite sources is modus operandi. When leaders have forgotten this or were slow to recognize this, they have been lampooned.
Two examples. President George W. Bush was vilified for his slow reaction to Hurricane Katrina. There were some in his party who questioned whether we should rebuild New Orleans. That comment is fairly arrogant and insensitive in its own right, but when you think of a major port city where goods can be shipped and received from the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River and one that lies pretty close to the Panama Canal, that comment becomes not only arrogant, but ignorant. You add to it the incompetent delivery of services from FEMA run by someone who helped George get elected, then you get “a textbook example of what not to do.” The italicized phrase are not my words as they were uttered by a presidential historian last week. A pundit said after the poor reaction, Bush’s worst legacy may not be Iraq, it will likely be Katrina.
The other example was from Hurricane Sandy earlier this year. When Congress was slow and almost did not approve $50 Billion in aid to help New Jersey, New York and other states rebuild, they were also vilified. The Congressional representatives from those states along with their governors called the GOP led Congress on the carpet. To be frank, they deserved every ounce of criticism. We must help Americans in a crisis. I agree with Ruth Marcus who said last Friday on PBS Newshour, we should budget for contingencies like this, so that these decisions to help need not be so monetarily challenged. By the way, with global warming and rising sea levels, it will only get worse.
Yet, the collaboration goes beyond the crisis which created the opportunity (and need) for Christie and Obama to work together. This is what most Americans want. I did hear George Will say he did not want collaboration on one of the Sunday Talk Shows. I must confess, I do not watch Sunday Talk Shows for this reason. They tend to have politicians and pundits on there who care less about the issues and more about the game of politics. What Will said is ludicrous in my mind. Unfortunately, the host did hold him accountable for those inane words.
Folks, we Americans work together. That is what makes us a great nation. We expect our leaders to work together. If they don’t, then they are part of the problem and not part of the solution. It is outstanding that Christie and Obama worked together to solve a problem for the people of New Jersey. It should not be so newsworthy that they came together to do so.