MSNBC Relishes Opportunity to Spin Christie's Praise of President's Handling of Storm
Hurricane Sandy has come and gone, leaving nothing but devastation behind in its wake and with just days until the election. So it's not that surprising that MSNBC is spinning New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's gratitude to the president for, well, doing his job as some sort of campaign gold for Team Obama.
Take Tuesday night's edition of The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, as guest contributors Joy-Ann Reid of The Grio and Steve Kornacki of MSNBC's The Cycle were brought on to comment on the compilation footage of a weary Christie, speaking warmly of the president. Without hesitation, they scoffed at the idea Gov. Romney could win the election now; politicizing a tragedy in the process. [video & transcript below]
Reid, a former Obama campaign staffer, insisted that “anything he [Romney] does looks almost by nature too political. And he can’t actually do anything. He can’t do anything certainly for Chris Christie. Going around with Mitt Romney and his Secret Service detail through the affected areas of New Jersey would actually cause more problems and wouldn’t help at all.”
But wait, doesn’t the President of the United States have his own Secret Service detail which also likewise makes these sort of disaster-site visits much more onerous than they'd otherwise be for everyone involved?
That didn't seem to matter to Reid, because Obama has the power of the presidency to throw around: "Whereas going around with the president helps him look at the damage, really view it for himself," she said. "He can get something out of doing that with the president. So, I think Romney unfortunately is the odd man out."
In an attempt not to over analyze, Kornacki tried to see things from Christie's perspective. Negative Romney references were seemingly obligatory at this point though.
Let me start with the benefit of the doubt version which I would say is the most important thing to understand about Christie from this standpoint is that he's as ambitious as any politician. What separates him from a lot of other ambitious politicians is he really genuinely loves the job he has now. Think of Mitt Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts. It was a stepping stone, that's all he wanted out of that job. Chris Christie has wanted to be governor of New Jersey his whole life.
With less than a week to go until Nov. 6, the liberal media will no doubt push the narrative that Obama can do no wrong. Just the opposite will continue to be the case for Romney, whose recent efforts to help those in need after the storm were relentlessly criticized by the Left.
Partial transcript below (chronologically following video):
The Last Word
Oct. 30, 2012
10:18 p.m. EDT
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL: Joy Reid, did you speak to your best friend three times yesterday?
JOY-ANN REID: You know what, only twice.
O'DONNELL: Yeah, see. He spoke to President Obama three times yesterday. That's best friend stuff.
REID: Yeah. They're bigger besties than any other besties that I know of. It's incredible. It's funny, he's not just any surrogate. He's the guy who's supposed to make Mitt Romney more authentic because he's a real, regular guy that's his friend. But you know what, the truth of the matter is Chris Christie has never been accused of being the world's best surrogate. He didn't exactly give him a ringing endorsement at even the convention. The speech seemed to be more about Chris Christie 2016. The truth of the matter is there aren't a lot of politicians whose main political feature is intense personal loyalty to Mitt Romney. This is a guy that doesn't have a lot of political leaders that are loyal to him so at a time like this Christie is doing the right thing. He's putting his state first. Hep doesn't care about politics, and his top priority is not helping Mitt Romney.
O'DONNELL: Steve, you watched Chris Christie and New Jersey politics for a long time. There's a way to do this. He doesn't have to use the word "praise". He can just say President Obama has been very responsive and he's been good and, you know, you can pick perfectly positive adjectives that aren't superlatives and no one will fault you for talking about it that way. Should we think he's going out of his way to praise the president or is this kind of a natural reaction from him?
STEVE KORNACKI: I think there are two things going on here. I don't want to be too cynical about it. Because I think --
O'DONNELL: It's after 10 o'clock.
KORNACKI: Let me start with the benefit of the doubt version which I would say is the most important thing to understand about Christie from this standpoint is that he's as ambitious as any politician. What separates him from a lot of other ambitious politicians is he really genuinely loves the job he has now. Think of Mitt Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts. It was a stepping stone, that's all he wanted out of that job. Chris Christie has wanted to be governor of New Jersey his whole life. New Jersey political culture is this very sort of quirky and insular thing. The governor is vetted with more constitutional authority there than anything else. I think he really -- there's something about the role any plays in New Jersey politics now. He relishes who he is in that state, what he represents to that state. So when something like this comes along, this is the ultimate test of gubernatorial leadership in New Jersey. That said, if you want to look for the more cynical interpretation, it's this. To survive in New Jersey, to survive as a Republican in a blue state, Chris Christie's strategy has been to seek out and to publicize high-profile partnerships with members of the other party. Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, is the most prominent example of this. He's done it with a number of mayors in New Jersey in an election. He's done it with a number of prominent Democrats in the legislature. It gives him this image that isabsolutely essential to him surviving in New Jersey and in an election. He faces re-election next year. That hey, this is not a national Republican who's unwilling to work with Democrats. This is a Republican who gets along with them. So in that sense, this is the most high-profile example of something he's been doing for a few years now.
O'DONNELL: Frank Rich tweeted today, maybe it turns out that Christie is the October surprise. Let's listen to what Charles Krauthammer said about this today.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: Christie's praise, I don't want to be cynical but that's probably worth a couple hundred mill. So as a governor, why not say what you got to say?
O'DONNELL: He didn't want to be cynical either, Steve. So, Joy this -- there was a lot of guessing when this storm started, who does this help politically? This thing we're looking at right now looks like a positive for the president, although trying to make those calculations literally in this storm I think is next to impossible.
REID: No, it's difficult and I think it also helps Chris Christie because Christie looks authentic, he looks like he's putting his state first. The problem for Mitt Romney is he's an also-ran in this story no matter how you look at it. Anything he does is going to look crass -- like, for instance, having a relief rally in Ohio, for instance. Rather than going to where the damage is. So anything he does looks almost by nature too political. And he can't actually do anything. He can't do anything certainly for Chris Christie. Going around with Mitt Romney and his Secret Service detail through the affected areas of New Jersey would actually cause more problems and wouldn't help at all, whereas going around with the president helps him look at the damage really view it for himself. He can get something out of doing that with the president. So I think Romney unfortunately is the odd man out.
O'DONNELL: And here are the words that Chris Christie can never say again in this campaign. He said this just 11 days ago in Virginia. Let's listen to this.
CHRIS CHRISTIE: He never did anything in his life. So the president doesn't know how to lead. I mean, watch what he's been like for the past 4 years. He's like a man wandering around a dark room. Hands up against the wall, clutching for the light switch of leadership. And he just can't find it. He won't find it in the next 18 days.
O'DONNELL: Steve, he's just erased every statement like that that he's made and he made a lot of them over the last couple months.
KORNACKI: Yeah. You're seeing, to pick up on Joy's point, Chris Christie is one of the most prominent Republicans nationally right now. I think he's also one of the most well-liked because he will separate himself in sort of unpredictable ways from the national Republican party brand. One thing he did in New Jersey a year or two ago when he stood up for a Muslim judge who was under attack from the Republican party. One of the very few prominent national Republicans who really stood up to the Islamophobia in the party. I think it gives him a certain amount of credibility in moments like this. That's why I know the political calculation is so impossible here, but I can't think of something that the Obama campaign would want more politically at this point than Chris Christie, somebody of that stature from the other party saying the things he's saying now a few days before the national election. Politically that has got to be advantageous for Obama.
O'DONNELL: Joy Reid and Steve Kornacki The Last Word's senior New Jersey political analyst. Thank you for joining me tonight.
10:23 p.m. EDT