OKLA. CITY —
“America’s mayor” was a title bestowed upon New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani by Oprah Winfrey for the leadership he displayed in the aftermath of the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001. Giuliani was on the site shortly after the twin towers collapsed in a show of support for the first responders who were there searching for survivors. He also assured New Yorkers that their city would survive the violence that was visited upon it and would remain the financial and cultural center of the nation. Giuliani served as a surrogate father in weddings for young women whose fathers had perished in the World Trade Center in the weeks and months following the bombing.
New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie is being recognized in a similar manner by the media for the role he played in responding to Superstorm Sandy, an event that devastated the coastal area of much of the Eastern seaboard. Christie, who was a former federal prosecutor, had developed a reputation as New Jersey’s governor for making blunt statements in response to criticism. After the superstorm, he displayed sensitivity and compassion as he interacted with people on the Jersey shore whose homes had been washed into the Atlantic Ocean by the storm.
As documented in a recent biography of Christie by authors Bob Ingle and Michael Symons, the Garden State’s chief executive had confrontations in town hall meetings with members of the state’s public employees unions after he had reduced the benefits that they received as part of his successful efforts to balance the state’s budget.
Christie also had publicly feuded with several reporters and Democratic legislators. He also had been scornful of President Barack Obama’s leadership.
But Christie publicly praised Obama several weeks before the presidential election as they toured some of the hard-hit areas together. Christie praised Obama and his administration’s prompt response to the disaster.
More recently, the New Jersey governor attacked the U.S. Congress for its failure to enact into law an aid package proposed by the White House for the states devastated by Sandy, and called for a bipartisan effort in Washington to assist in rebuilding the coastal region. Christie now has high approval ratings in New Jersey despite the fact that the majority of voters in that state are registered Democrats.
Last week, Christie made a presentation to the New Jersey state Legislature in Trenton in which he spoke of the heroism displayed by several citizens as they sought to provide assistance to others in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. He said that he and the Democratic legislative leadership were working together in a bipartisan effort to serve the citizens of their state. Christie also said that bipartisanship could serve as a model for Washington.
It is possible that Chris Christie’s popularity will prompt him to enter the race for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
WILLIAM F. O’BRIEN is an Oklahoma City attorney.