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FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, MAY 31, 2013
BY BOB FRANKEN
Chris Christie is a confrontational conservative running for at least one more election. He has a well-known, significant weight problem. Oh yeah, he’s governor of New Jersey and fits right in with that state’s stereotypes. Barack Obama is none of the above. Yet the two seem to get along quite well. The word “bromance” has been used to describe them so often that it’s gone from clever to banal. At the very least, though, they are photo-op buddies in spite of their differences, both personal and partisan.
Much has been made of this, particularly since their ability to work together and be civil is such a stark contrast to the unyielding nastiness that defines our political system these days. Our government is far too often paralyzed by an atmosphere of outright hostility that defines compromise as treason. There is no dialogue, only malicious monologues filled with the most noxious and distorted recriminations.
As we all know, the Obama-Christie collaboration was cobbled together because of a natural disaster, Hurricane Sandy, that severely wrecked much of the Northeast, including parts of New Jersey. For some reason, though, with our country standing on the edge of so many other kinds of mostly man- and woman-made calamities, our government leaders find it impossible to accomplish anything, even when they agree it is necessary. In fact, the hard-liners in Christie’s own GOP have made it clear they would like to make him pay a price for his perceived appeasement.
How dare he put his state’s interests ahead of politics? The extremists believe he needs to be shunned, which is exactly what happened when they excluded him from the list of speakers at the Conservative Political Action Conference last March. But there he was again, a few days ago, traipsing around the Jersey shore with the president. In their minds, that is equivalent to consorting with the devil just because site officials and the feds are engaged in a joint effort to help the battered region recover.
If only there was more consorting in Washington. Problems cry for cooperation when instead they are inflated by confrontation. The various factions keep their distance with dissonance, filling the space between them with noise.
Every once in a while, there is a glimmer of hope when one of the noisemakers decides to scurry away. Michele Bachmann is the latest. In announcing she won’t run to keep her Minnesota congressional seat, the tea party Republican insists that her decision has nothing whatsoever to do with either the federal investigation into campaign-fund irregularities or the strong indications that she would lose her re-election bid. That means her decision had everything to do with the investigation and the probability she’d get voted out of office. Besides, there’s money to be made out there. She has got “TV pundit” written all over her. She’ll merely be taking her vacuous comments from Congress to another branch of showbiz.
The truth is Bachmann isn’t very popular on Capitol Hill. She is considered a grandstander who plays fast and loose with the truth. Think of that: Senators and members of the House disparaging someone for being a deceitful hot dog. She’s scorned for her fact-deprived, over-the-top rhetoric. Ponder that one, too. Her caucus is so riddled with mindless flame-throwers, some of the GOP legends are worrying out loud that it might be consumed by its inflammatory extremism. Bob Dole, highly respected by friend and foe alike when he was a senator, says now that the party should be “closed for repairs until New Year’s Day next year, and spend that time going over ideas and positive agenda.”
It’s doubtful many on the right will heed his advice, but if they ever need a model of how adversaries can get things done together, check out those two guys finding common ground on the sands of the Jersey shore.
© 2013 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.