Annette John-Hall: Theories abound about Christie-Obama bromance

Posted: November 03, 2012

I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the sight of President Obama and Gov. Christie, clad in matching his-and-his wind breakers, all cuddly in Brigantine, N.J.

Actually, the president and governor got together to survey the damage done to the flood-ravaged Jersey Shore after Hurricane Sandy and to reassure displaced residents that "we are here for you."

But make no mistake: In political terms, they were doing some bipartisan cuddling.

For the fourth day in a row, the power couple showcased their mutual man-crush for the world to see.

After spending Wednesday afternoon touring the flood sites, Christie, who had already shared that he had the president's White House number on speed dial, thanked Obama for his "personal concern and compassion" for the state.

On his end, Obama praised Christie for "his extraordinary leadership." Christie, the president said, "has put his heart and soul into making sure that the people of New Jersey bounce back even stronger than before."

Breaking up is hard to do. I bet Mitt Romney, Christie's ex, was ready to throw a bayonet at the TV screen.

Budding bromance

Admittedly, I can't help but wonder what is motivating Christie to spark up a bromance with the president a week before the election. Theories abound - everything from Christie's paving the way for his own presidential run in 2016 to the notion that he's embracing Obama because fellow New Jerseyan Bruce Springsteen has. And he really, really, really wants face time with the Boss.

Whatever it is, I'm not hating. Heck, I was beginning to think that bipartisanship was, well, gone with the wind.

Especially between those two. After all, Christie is (was?) Romney's No. 1 supporter, whom the GOP nominee plucked to deliver the keynote address at the Republican National Convention. He was also Romney's henchman on the campaign trial. Remember, Christie recently chided Obama as "a man wandering around in a dark room, hand up against the wall, clutching for the light switch of leadership."

But that was before the lights went out in Jersey.

Silver lining

See, the one silver lining behind disasters like Hurricane Sandy is that it always brings people together for the common good. Even self-serving public servants pause to put people before politics.

I mean, we actually saw Christie's compassionate side on Twitter this week, the bully completely subdued by the wreckage Sandy wrought.

"It was an emotionally overwhelming afternoon for me as a son of the state," the governor tweeted Tuesday after touring the damage, hugging residents who had lost their homes, and commiserating with rescue workers.

Still, in a contentious election year, politics always lurks below the surface. And in disasters, you can expect the Federal Emergency Management Agency, better known as FEMA, to get kicked around like the political football it has become.

Why else would former FEMA administrator Michael Brown - you know, "heckuva job Brownie," whom George W. Bush lauded in 2005 for his botched handling of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath - come out his sinkhole to criticize President Obama for actually acting too quickly?

"I just don't know why [Brown] inserted himself into the conversation," said Scott Gabriel Knowles, professor of history at Drexel and author of The Disaster Experts: Mastering Risk in Modern America.

"Every governor puts their [disaster declaration] paperwork in ahead of time, because you don't want a moment to go by."

Knowles said that if Romney were governor of Massachusetts right now, you'd better believe "he would have gotten his disaster declaration together."

Which is especially rich, considering Romney said last year he wanted to abolish FEMA, only to flip-flop this week after repeated refusals to answer questions about his position and say, well, no, he wouldn't kill it.

Saying what we've come to expect from him.

It may be that Obama's strong show as commander-in-chief after the storm - and he wasn't just "acting presidential," as the TV folk are fond of saying - could put him over the top come Election Day, Knowles said.

"Put it this way: If Katrina had happened in 2004," Knowles said, "John Kerry would have been president."

Publicly, at least, Christie insists he has too much to worry about in his own state to speculate on how Sandy could influence the election.

"I don't give a damn about Election Day," Christie told an interviewer this week. "Let the politicians who are on the ballot worry about Election Day. It's not my problem."

Hey, I think I like this guy.


Contact Annette John-Hall at 215-854-4986, Ajohnhall@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @Annettejh.

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