In Wednesday’s edition of The New York Times, the editorial board praised Republican Chris Christie for rising above politics in his response to Hurricane Sandy. But three weeks ago, as the hurricane was making landfall, they penned a Sandy-themed attack on Mitt Romney in the same space.
You have to admire the shamelessness of the Times’ editorial board: today’s editorial is titled “Duty Before Party.” The Times’ offers Governor Christie a rhetorical pat on the back for his hurricane response, but most of the piece is filled with venom for the rest of Christie’s party who supposedly put “blind loyalty above emergency.”
The Times chides, “Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast eight days before Election Day,and all the party could see was a Republican governor praising aDemocratic president.” Was it really so odd of the party to notice Christie praising Obama? If so, the Times’s editorial staff may want to have a talk with their own Kate Zernicke, who wrote a story highlighting the political optics on October 31st:
The power of the image could not have been lost on a politician as savvy as Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey: With days to go before a cliffhanger election, a Democratic president was giving the handshake-back pat to his Republican opponent’s most aggressive campaigner as they prepared to embark on a tour of damage from a catastrophic storm.
They may also want to talk with Maureen Dowd, whose column published the day after the storm hit called Obama’s tour of storm-damaged New Jersey a “dramatic homestretch ad for President Obama,” one that would be “devastating for Mitt Romney.”
But the NY Times editorial board doesn’t have to cast about the pages of their own paper for examples of politics trumping crisis, they can simply look in the nearest mirror. On October 29th, as Sandy was making landfall, the Times published a Sandy-themed editorial attacking Mitt Romney.
Titled “A Big Storm Requires Big Government,” the editorial falsely attacked Romney using a quote taken from a primary debate. As I noted at the time, it’s clear in context that Romney was going beyond the question of FEMA to the issue of debt and borrowing in general. John King, who was moderating the debate, tried to bring Romney back to the question of disaster relief and failed.
Granted, writers at the Times are paid to write about politics, not to govern. There is a difference from the response expected of editorial writers vs. state leaders. That said, it’s not ridiculous to suggest Christie could have put storm response first without having Obama on hand. Mayor Bloomberg asked Obama not to visit New York City during the crisis and that was not seen as putting politics first. Christie could have done the same.
The truth, as Maureen Down pointed out, is that Obama’s helicopter tour of New Jersey was better than any campaign commercial. Exit polling indicates it may have had an impact on a significant number of voters. If Dowd can point this out without being called an insensitive vulture, politicians on the GOP side of the aisle can do the same. They are, after all, politicians as well as leaders.
Finally, it’s a bit much to have the editorial board, which tried to make Sandy a political weapon on the day the storm made landfall, complain about anyone else mixing disasters and politics. Perhaps the NY Times editorial board could try leading by example next time and save the attacks on candidates until after the death toll has been tallied.
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