Friday, August 29, 2014
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Chris Christie's moment

Gov. Christie faces a major moment of his political career this week when a Category One hurricane squarely lands on his state's 127-mile shoreline.

Chris Christie's moment

Gov. Christie addresses a gathering Saturday in North Wildwood, N.J., as he lays out preparation plans for Hurricane Sandy.  the region prepares for Hurricane Sandy. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Gov. Christie addresses a gathering Saturday in North Wildwood, N.J., as he lays out preparation plans for Hurricane Sandy. the region prepares for Hurricane Sandy. (AP Photo/Mel Evans) AP

Gov. Christie faces a major moment of his political career this week when a Category One hurricane squarely lands on his state's 127-mile shoreline.

Many of us don't realize the ways government interacts with our lives until an elected official pulls the levers of power during an emergency. Christie has already been involved in shutting down much of the Garden State Parkway, the Atlantic City casinos, the Holland Tunnel into New York City, all government properties and, if you live on a barrier island down at the Shore, your house.

And the full brunt of the storm is still miles off our coast. The extent of the Christie response, good or bad, has yet to be realized.

Regardless, there will be political implications. President George W. Bush scored political points by the way he handled the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11; the same president lost points by the way he mishandled the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

A blunt and confident Christie has been the most visible of perhaps any elected official so far during Hurricane Sandy. Especially if New Jersey gets hit harder than any state, Christie may become the political face of the storm.

If Christie has future political aspirations (and why wouldn't he?), these are the moments that demonstrate the makings of a commander-in-chief. 

It's hard for a governor, who deals with Runnemede instead of Russia, to appear "presidential." And it's hard to win a race for president without being viewed as "presidential." So a natural disaster, in which a governor has a degree of power over the protection and safety of a populace, is a path toward looking that end. 

During Sandy, these potentially presidential moments have been captured into little digital bits and disseminated far and wide.

The gov has already held several press conferences flanked by cabinet members (including the military-clad adjutant general of the New Jersey National Guard, which gives off a distinctly POTUS feel). His communications staff, as they always do, have released pictures of closed-door cabinet meetings and YouTube clips of sound-bitable nuggets ("Don't be stupid; get out").

Today, CNN carried much of his noon press conference live. Warnings about evacuating ASAP were delivered in what the anchor termed "his typically blunt style."

"If it looks stupid, it is stupid, and you're going to wind up hurting yourselves and others," Christie said in that unique way that he says things.

Then, he asked to speak directly to children watching at home: "Remain calm. The adults are taking care of business. Don't be scared."

If Christie's warnings about evacuating turn out to save the lives of those who evacuated at his behest, then Sandy may be Christie's presidential-like moment. If not, we still have a good 36 hours left of this thing. Who knows what else Christie will do to help, or not help, those he has sworn to protect?

Whatever happens could certainly go a long way to making New Jerseyans forget about this most non-presidential rookie moment during another storm New Jersey faced.

A few minutes after Christie's press conference today, President Obama held his own briefing from the White House. It should be noted: Style notwithstanding, as I listened to the warnings about safety and the call for calm, the moments sounded remarkably similar.

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