Not only did Superstorm Sandy bring the closing arguments back to where each candidate thematically started the presidential campaign, it also served as the definitive, most credible fact-checker in the 2012 election cycle.
Sandy’s aftermath demonstrated once and for all that the GOP meme about President Obama as unable to lead, or work with members of the other party, an incompetent “other” who doesn’t understand or appropriately represent American values, is simply not what Americans have come to know.
Consistent with the anti-cooperation Tea Party madness that has overtaken the Republican Party, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie quickly became a central figure in his party’s blame game. As the path to 270 shrinks and the early voting lines expand, Mitt Romney failed to become part of the nation’s post-Sandy narrative, resorting to “playing it safe” tactics from earlier in the cycle that don’t let the truth get in the way.
Rejecting the false choice of either/or narratives, the idea that “we’re all in this together” and the focus on finding inclusive ways to embrace the bigger picture has been a consistent theme throughout President Obama’s life.
As a student, Obama spoke eloquently about absorbing all traditions, as state senator he worked for a “fair shot” for everyone, and as a rising star in the Democratic Party, he said “there is no red or blue America, only the United States of America.”
As the GOP howled and those affected by the storm reached out to help one another, Americans saw Obama and Christie calmly and effectively get down to business, again making it clear who is the “adult in the room.”
Also implicit in Obama’s closing message — that in America, we don’t leave anyone behind — is the reality that, as we are reminded in the aftermath of Sandy, like Katrina, 9/11 and the financial crash of 2008, and by the long early voting lines, the battles over access to birth control, war, immigration, Binders, Bain and Big Bird, we still have a long way to a more “perfect” union.
On the trail and in closing TV ads, Romney makes the case for working collaboratively, for “leadership in Washington that will actually bring people together and get the job done and could not care less if — if it’s a Republican or Democrat.”
He ignored that message in his response to Sandy. As a former governor of Massachusetts, Romney could have spoken from his own experience about the importance of unifying behind Christie and New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo and all of the people affected by the storm as they start the long recovery process.
Instead, just as in the immediate aftermath of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Romney and his team went small and petty. He refused to answer reasonable questions about his prior comments on FEMA (reminiscent of his response to questions about his tax returns) or his multiple positions on global climate change, then attempted to backtrack on his GOP convention joke about rising seas, referring a questioner to his book — which Romney has contradicted in statements on the campaign trail.
Like Obama, Romney’s behavior in the closing days of the election reinforces an ongoing theme from his campaign: voters remain unsure what his core beliefs are and where he would take the country.
Posted: Monday, 5 November 2012