Today, on Monday October 29th, most Americans are witnessing an event that could potentially change our nation’s history forever. In fact, it already has. As the East Coast waits with baited breath, Hurricane Sandy storm has already entered world history books as the largest tropical cyclone ever recorded. For the second time in 14 months, New York City has shut down it’s humongous public transportation system. But along with NYC, public transit has also shut down in Washington DC, Philadelphia, Baltimore and across New Jersey, causing tens of millions of Americans to be locked in place. Again, like it or not… that’s historic folks.
But Sandy has also done something else that seemed virtually impossible before November 6th. It has effectively “ended” both Presidential campaigns. As President Obama and Governor Romney both know all too well, this is not the time keep trading barbs in front of the American People. Even after the storm moves through, Americans will most likely be dealing with a lot of challenges in its aftermath. Ask a Gulf Coast resident… Hurricanes never get resolved in just a few weeks. The ramifications, if severe, will last for years to come.
Ironically though, events of this magnitude often change the course of political history. Over the next several days, we’ll probably be seeing just as much (if not more) of Governor Chris Christie as we do either Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan. This will be a time that could truly put the New Jersey Governor, as the most prominent Republican in the wake of this storm, to the test, as well as sow important seeds for his future. And of course, President Obama’s role as “Responder-In-Chief” has never been more crucial.
Which brings me to the point that hasn’t been discussed much in this election season. The most important role of any “executive” public servant… Mayor, city manager, Governor or President, is actually Responder-In-Chief. Being President is much more about the things you cannot control, than the few things that you can. Once the campaign talk is over, the American people get a quick reminder of just how little political campaigns actually predict one’s effectiveness in a job. They then have to see the official in action.
In 2008, President Obama ran a very successful campaign. But when he took office, he became mired in the real world of America’s most pressing issues. He then had to transition from a guy with lots of big ideas, to a guy that could deliver real, tangible results. Some would argue that he hasn’t done that… and they would be WRONG. Against the very long odds of crippling divisiveness in Congress, he was able to accomplish steps that dug our economy out of recession, and put us back on track. Yes, still describe the nation’s jobs record as “lack-luster”. But as Mitt Romney said about his own jobs record in Massacusetts, “It takes a while to get things turned around.” That’s the role of a Responder. You don’t cause the situation you’re in, whatever it is, but you care enough to do something about it. Of course there’s irony that Mr. Romney said this about his record, but doesn’t care enough to extend President Obama the same courtesy. As all of the chatter has consumed the last year, Mr. Obama’s term (hopefully 1st term) in office ends in essentially the same way it began… responding to huge national challenges unseen by this generation. If anything, Sandy is that.
So now in what should have been the final week of an historic campaign, President Obama will get to do what he’s actually best at doing… be President.
My thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by Huricane Sandy.