Merlene Davis: Behaving like adults should be the norm in politics

Herald-Leader columnistNovember 3, 2012 

It wasn't until Hurricane Sandy slammed into the coastal regions of the northern U.S. that I noticed my breathing has been quite shallow for weeks.

I've learned I can inhale only a limited amount of toxins before they negatively affect my soul, and all the vitriol raining down from the political campaigns was just too poisonous.

I change the channel, only glance at headlines, and ignore the polls just so I can maintain an emotional balance necessary for daily living.

But after Sandy's destruction, a rush of fresh air forced me to breathe deeply again.

That rush came from the mouth of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a staunch Republican, when he actually praised without equivocation the actions of President Barack Obama's handling of federal relief efforts.

I witnessed a Republican enthusiastically praising the works of his president and never once did he seem to care that the president is a Democratic. How long has it been since this country has seen that?

And now, days later, I haven't seen a single spokesperson for the governor issuing statements that tempered Christie's words. There have been a number of critics claiming Christie's words will change the results of the presidential race in Obama's favor, however.

What I saw last week was one man helping another, both fully aware of the other's political affiliation, and neither allowing that to matter.

You are breathing deeper, too, aren't you?

I thought the days of politicians uniting behind the needs of this country were long gone, that the idea of "the better good" had given way to the party line.

I was wrong.

Just weeks ago, during the Republic National Convention, Christie delivered the keynote address and had nothing good to say about Obama and his leadership. Christie, in fact, is one of the most highly sought-after surrogates for Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

While Christie has been criticized by some Republicans for the praise he has heaped on the president after the storm, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a Democrat, told CNN he wasn't surprised by Christie's actions.

"We are in a state of crisis all across the state," Booker said. "And when you're in a crisis, you don't stop and ask your fellow New Jerseyan, your first responder, you don't ask if they're Republican, a Democrat. You don't ask how they choose to pray to their God. You just pull together and do what's necessary."

Booker added that politics shouldn't be in the mix at all. "Right now it's just human beings facing human tragedy and pulling together to do so," he said.

By no means do I think Christie will now change his political affiliation or vote for Obama. Christie is the Republican governor of a very blue state, but if Christie were trying to curry favor with his constituents by praising Obama — who should carry New Jersey handily Tuesday — he wouldn't have blasted the president at the convention or at several other "vote for Romney" campaign stops.

And, if he wanted to get back at Christie for those disparaging remarks, Obama could have simply waited for Christie to come crawling to him, asking for help. Instead, Obama called Christie first and has continued to call him.

Christie and Obama put politics aside for a while in order to put people they serve first. It was an example of government "of the people, by the people and for the people."

The men acted like two mature adults instead of the back-biting, name-calling politicians we've seen in recent campaign ads.

Christie brought us a breath of fresh air. Now that we're all breathing better, let's remember that example when we vote on Tuesday.

Merlene Davis: (859) 231-3218. Email: mdavis1@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @reportmerle. Blog: merlenedavis.bloginky.com.

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