Posted Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010, at 12:21 PM
A few years back, after Hurricane Katrina, I reported a piece for the political trade magazine
Campaigns & Elections
) about how politicians can make the most or least of natural disasters. It's not something that they will talk about at the time. Oh, obviously there's no political motivation behind their decision to do a photo-op with hazmat gear on at the site of the collapsed orphanage! But if handled correctly, a natural disaster can endear a politician to voters for years, as North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt learned in the 1990s. It can destroy a politician, as Hurricane Katrina destroyed Gov. Kathleen Blanco. After the fact, everyone will admit that the proper response to a disaster is to embed at a crisis center, take the lead on all crisis updates, and photo-op until the cameras burn out.
This is a long-winded way of saying wow, Chris Christie fumbled this one .
As the Garden State took a pounding from the blizzard that's paralyzing much of the East Coast, New Jersey's Governor and Lieutenant Governor both escaped the Garden State for holiday vacations, leaving the senate president and acting governor Stephen M. Sweeny to stand-in during the snow.
Sweeny was almost immediately immersed in storm-related issues as the blizzard approached Sunday since Governor Chris Christie and his family left for a Disney vacation in Florida at the same time Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno left on a vacation of her own. Christie plans to return to Trenton Thursday.
This is arguably a worse mistake for Christie than it would have been for any other northeast governor. Christie's year one governing strategy has been, basically, tough love for state employees. Remember the confrontation between Christie and the teacher, who complained about how hard her job was getting and got the governor to respond, "Than you don't have to do it?" Austerity works, tough love works, if it's being practiced by the guy asking for it. (This is why incoming Wisconsin governor Scott Walker made such a big deal, in the campaign, of how he packed his lunch to work to work every day.) If I'm a political strategist for one of the New Jersey unions that has been roundly beaten by Christie this year, I have my opening salvo for 2011. All of this is just incomprehensible from an administration that seemed to have mastered YouTube era political optics.