Via Jim Geraghty, Larry O’Donnell offers a rare moment of sanity on MSNBC regarding Chris Christie and the Snowmageddon in New Jersey. O’Donnell offered his “rewrite” last night on behalf of those labored under the misapprehension that mayors and governors muscle up and personally direct snow-removal efforts when large storms hit. Indeed, O’Donnell skewers Newark’s Mayor Cory Booker (an up-and-coming Democrat) for his grandstanding during the storm, and suggests that anyone measuring political performance over the personal efforts at snow removal may have been snowed a long time ago:
Meanwhile another New Jersey politician has pretty much dodged any criticism, Newark Mayor Cory Booker. Here he is shoveling snow a few years ago. According to this official twitter feed during this most recent storm he delivered diapers to someone who couldn’t get out to do shopping and dug out another person’s car. All valiant and thoughtful and considerate things to do but you don’t need a mayor to do those things. All mayors and governors can really do during a blizzard is pretend to be helpful. They know nothing more about snow removal than you or I do. And if you vote for them on the basis of what they pretend to know about snow removal, then you have been played for a fool.
Cities and states above the Mason Dixon Line have professionals on their payrolls who think about snow removal all the time. They think about it in August. They look forward to it. They know what to do when it happens. They don’t panic when snow falls. They just go do their jobs, which is why as Governor Christie correctly noted 95% of all the state roads were cleared, absolutely cleared, by Tuesday morning, which is exactly how long it would have taken if Chris Christie was in New Jersey posing for phony photo ops on snowplows like some of his predecessors have done.
So, tonight’s rewrite is not for Government [sic] Chris Christie who kept his promise to his family at absolutely no cost to his state. It’s for the people attacking him for not doing any of the ineffectual phony stunts that they seem so impressed by when other politicians summon the media to watch them shoveling snow.
I’d only quibble on a couple of points to this eminently sensible (as Jim rightly calls it) commentary. First, while Booker certainly had some photo ops in mind while delivering diapers, it shouldn’t entirely negate the effort he made to show some solidarity with snowbound Newark residents during the crisis. Anyone doubting the basic requirement in leadership to first show up only needs to consider the radically different optics between George Bush’s megaphone-carrying appearance in New York City in the days after 9/11 to his flyover of New Orleans after Katrina, which Bush admitted was perhaps one of his biggest mistakes in his presidency. It may not mean much in practical terms, but Booker’s public presence showed an engagement that enhanced the sense that the crisis was being handled properly. I’m not sure it deserves as much scorn as O’Donnell gives it.
Also, while I agree that the wonders of modern communication means that an executive is never completely disconnected from his job, there is still room for criticism with Christie’s vacationing. No, his presence wouldn’t have meant another shovel on the sidewalks, but he is the state’s executive. He and his lieutenant governor Kim Guadagno were elected by statewide popular vote for the two statewide executive positions, while the Senate leader only won a seat in the legislature in his district. One of those two should be “on duty” and present just in case a crisis hits. It’s poor executive practice to have both responsible officials out of the state on personal business at the same time while leaving executive power in the hands of someone whom voters didn’t select for those responsibilities, unless a genuine emergency exists. Guadagno’s situation seems closer to an “emergency” than a family vacation at DisneyWorld, which could have been rescheduled — and shouldn’t have been scheduled at the same time in the first place.