For Disaster Relief: Keep Those Lines of Communication Open

In my younger years, I was a champion bridge-burner. If I didn’t like how someone treated me, I just walked away from them— completely away! And I didn’t come back for a long, long time, if ever.

This didn’t work well for me, and it wouldn’t have worked well for New Jersey.

Slammed by Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey  (and New York) are in big need of help, and not just from their neighboring states. Unless you believe, with Mitt Romney, that private donations will do the job, they need federal assistance to rebuild homes, highways, bridges, the beaches that generate major income, and more.

It wasn’t too long ago that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was refusing $3 billion in federal funds to build what would have been the biggest public works project in U.S. history, a new tunnel between New York and New Jersey.  “I refuse to compromise my principles,” he said, in an interview with the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

Since then, unfortunately, Sandy has torn up a good portion of Governor Christie’s state, and while he may not have changed his views on the federal government, he has changed his willingness to work with it.

To Christie’s credit, he’s been just as vocal about his appreciation of President Obama’s help as he was about contrary positions in the past. And while we often admire (or pretend to admire) consistency in our politicians, this is a change of heart, or at least words, that may help millions of New Jerseyans get through the post-Sandy crisis faster.

What made this change of position possible is that, as anti- as Christie has sometimes been, he never burned his bridges to Obama. He never, to my knowledge, called the President racist names, accused him of being unpatriotic, or slammed the door on future cooperation.

Obama is incredibly good at rising above that stuff. But you can’t always count on the other person’s forgiveness when you discover that you do need them after all.

It’s better to just not burn, or flood, the bridge.