In an earlier post I discussed how politicians and pundits often present alternative realities of the science fiction sort. I also wrote a post about how some commentators were shocked that Romney was doing so poorly against the actual Obama when they believed they should have been easily trouncing the Obama-who-isn’t (that is, their straw man/alternative universe version of Obama).
During the Republican National Convention, New Jersey governor Chris Christie gave a rousing speech against President Obama and accused him of lacking leadership. In a rather clever analogy, he compared Obama to a man blundering in the dark, trying to find a light switch. Christie continued to ably serve in the attack role for his man Mitt Romney after the RNC. Naturally, this sort of political rhetoric is all part of the game and sensible folks know that such speeches are not about presenting the truth but about influencing emotions via presenting a narrative of a world that is not and of a world that probably never will be.
Then Sandy smashed into the east coast of the United States and hammered New Jersey especially hard. People died. Millions of people were left without power. Property was destroyed and damaged on a massive scale.
President Obama did what a president should do-he stepped into the crisis and got things done to help the people of the United States. Governor Christie did exactly what a governor should do-he stepped into the crisis and got things done to help the people of his state.
Reality had savagely slammed into the carefully crafted political narrative of an alternative reality in which government is almost always a problem and Obama is blundering in the dark. To Christie’s credit, he knew when the time to play at political narrative ended and the time to “get real” began. This was, of course, when Sandy hit his state. Christie also exhibited those rare but laudable traits: sincerity, a sense of moral duty and honesty. He praised Obama for his praiseworthy actions and made it clear that his concern was completely focused on the good of the people of New Jersey. This is how it should be and both men have done the right thing.
It is, of course, tempting to some to accuse Obama and Christie of playing a subtle political game. That is, their game is to create the illusion they are not playing the political game by doing what they should do rather than obviously playing for political points. The challenge is, of course, to prove this. After all, the behavior of a clever person playing a political game while skillfully avoiding the appearance of playing the game would look identical to that of a person who was, in fact, not playing a political game but doing what should be done. Naturally, if evidence is available to support the hypothesis that there is political game play going on (and not just the fact that both men are politicians and an election is coming up), then such evidence should be given due consideration. Naturally, even if both men are playing a clever game, at least they are playing it the right way. That is, at least they are acting like leaders.
While I have been pushed ever closer to cynicism, I am taking the words and actions of Obama and Christie as being sincere and not part of a brilliant game within a game. I could be wrong and I am sure there is a well developed narrative for the clever ploys allegedly being played.
While it took a disaster to make it happen, it is good to see leaders working across party lines to get things done. It is also refreshing to hear sincere praise rather than the usual venomous lies and distortions that make up most of contemporary politics.
It would be a good thing if we could maintain this spirit and work together with the real world, rather than retreating ever deeper into the distorted alternative realities that make up much of contemporary politics. It should, of course, always be remembered that these political narratives cannot stand up when reality intrudes, at least when that reality includes a massive storm.
While it is disappointing, it is not surprising that governor Christie is being attacked for his willingness to work with the president. Rush Limbaugh, for example, launched into an attack against Christie-even going so far as to imply that Christie has changed his sexual orientation. To attack leaders because they are willing to set aside petty political bickering to work together for the common good in the face of a major disaster shows moral bankruptcy and meanness of spirit. What we need is more honest cooperation and less ideological blindness.