Obama takes in damage with Christie in New Jersey
Rivals put aside politics, assess devastation
Normally rivals, President Barack Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made no mention of politics Wednesday to tour and assess widespread devastation near Atlantic City, two days after a superstorm left parts of the iconic resort destroyed.
"I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern and compassion for our state and the people of our state," Christie said after surveying damage from Sandy in Brigantine, New Jersey.
Obama returned that praise, saying the Republican governor has been "aggressive" in preparing his state for one of the worst natural disasters in American history.
"I think the people of New Jersey recognize that he has put his heart and soul into making sure that the people of New Jersey bounce back even stronger than before. I want to thank him for his extraordinary leadership and partnership," Obama said.
He and his team would not tolerate red tape in delivering federal aid to afflicted communities, Obama said, describing a demand he's made on his team to return phone calls from local and state authorities within 15 minutes.
"We go through tough times, but we bounce back," Obama said in his conclusion. "The reason we bounce back is because we look out for one another. And we don't leave anybody behind. And so my commitment to the people on this block, the people in this community and the people of this state is that that same spirit will carry all the way over until our work is done."
The presidential tour began when Air Force One landed at an airstrip in the southeastern beach town around 1 p.m. ET, where Obama and Christie shook hands on the tarmac and boarded a helicopter for an aerial tour of the damage. Obama traveled to New Jersey with Craig Fugate, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The helicopter tour took the president and the governor over cleanup efforts in Atlantic City and surrounding towns, including Seaside Heights, where a large pier that previously housed a roller coaster has been submerged in seawater.
Later, Obama and Christie toured a makeshift shelter in the Brigantine Beach Community Center, northeast of Atlantic City, where 200 spent the night during the storm's peak on Monday night.
At the shelter, Obama praised FEMA chief Fugate, saying he was "the best there ever is" to take the role of managing the federal disaster response outfit.
And Christie, a Republican and top surrogate for GOP nominee Mitt Romney, piled praise on the president.
"He means what he says," Christie said, adding Obama had been "working the minute he got here."
Christie's remarks at the shelter echo his sentiments from the past twenty-four hours, during which he's extolled Obama as providing an exemplary response to Sandy. Christie said on CNN Tuesday he wasn't the type to play politics in his assessment of Obama's disaster response, saying "when the president does things that deserve praise, I will give him praise. When the president does things that deserve scorn, I will give him scorn."
The scorn has certainly been on display in the past, most recently at the Republican National Convention in August during Christie's keynote address.
At that event, Christie hammered Obama for an absence of leadership characteristics, saying it was "time to end this era of absentee leadership in the Oval Office and send real leaders to the White House."
Asked Tuesday if Romney had a problem with Christie looking at storm damage with the president just six days before the election, a top Romney adviser offered one word: "None."
Obama was previously slated to campaign on Ohio Wednesday, but the White House canceled those events so the president could devote his attention to the storm's aftermath. Obama canceled campaign events on Monday and Tuesday as well.
Democratic surrogates have been out in force for the president, however, including Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton, both of whom live in states that saw damage during the storm (Clinton in New York and Biden in Delaware).
Obama is scheduled to return to campaigning Thursday with events in Colorado, Wisconsin and Nevada.
Meanwhile, Romney resumed campaigning Wednesday with campaign events in Florida. During the height of the storm Monday evening, the GOP nominee spoke by telephone with FEMA and National Weather Service officials.
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