Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Christie, Obama demonstrate true leadership in the face of adversity

Looking beyond partisan divide, NJ Gov and POTUS work to aid those in need

The true measure of leadership sometimes takes you in directions you'd never imagine possible.

Case in point: Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a run-of-the-mill conservative in today's hyper-partisan Republican Party, has certainly surprised many by working side-by-side with President Barack Obama. The two have surveyed the damage of Hurricane Sandy, have discussed and begun implementing plans for recovery, all while both being on the exact opposite sides of the political spectrum.

In truth, we shouldn't really be that surprised, given the nature of both men's jobs. What's expected of both of them in their respective offices is to work together during such travesty, to get people's lives back on track.

Yet in a year that saw the nation nearly stumble into a second recession due to partisan politics, with conservatives on the right refusing for a time to increase the debt limit, it wouldn't have been too surprising to have seen Gov. Christie refuse to acknowledge Obama's presence in his state at all, especially during the final week of the presidential campaign season where Christie's ally, GOP nominee Mitt Romney, could capitalize.

Credit is due to both Obama and Christie. The two saw past the hyper-partisan atmosphere of today's political climate, saw the events taking place before them as more than mere opportunities to enhance their respective images, and instead put aside their differences to work together for a common good.

As a supporter, I didn't expect anything different from President Obama. He has, time-and-time again, tried to reach out to his opponents on the right, rejecting the extremism from Tea Partiers but hinting he'd acquiesce to some ideas from conservatives as long as they made sense.

I'm touched and humbled, however, by the cooperative spirit of Chris Christie, who became one of the most ardent opponents of President Obama during his rise to governor of the state of New Jersey. It's quite inspiring to see that Christie, who once criticized the president as presiding over an "era of absentee leadership in the Oval Office," is recognizing Obama's commitment in ways that go beyond what's expected of him, openly thanking him and giving him props for his leadership during this challenging time.

This isn't just a moment that legitimizes either man's political career; this isn't an event that, whether it's Obama in 2012 or Christie in 2016, will propel either man to greater things in the future. Rather, this moment gives us reason to hope once again, as the president urged us to do in 2008, for a better America overall, for Democrats, Republicans, and all others.

For I, like so many Americans, still hope for a day when we can put partisan divide behind us. Substantive arguments that debate the merits of this or that method of governance is one thing; it's an entirely different can of worms when sides refuse to even sit across from one another to open dialogues.

The Christie-Obama relationship that has blossomed as a result of this catastrophe gives us reason to believe that we can rise above the mess of partisanship. It shouldn't have taken a natural disaster for this to have happened. But nevertheless, there's still reason to celebrate the fact that, even during the toughest of times involving the harshest of divides in our nation's history, some fundamental truths can still be recognized by both right and left.

Gov. Christie and President Obama get it. No matter how distant we are in ideologies, when people are hurting, when disaster strikes, we cannot allow our differences to cause even more hurt in the lives of those in need.

It's one of the reasons why I support Barack Obama for president. But it's also a reason why I have new-found respect for Chris Christie.

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