Christie shines, Obama leads, Brownie attacks, Romney waffles

The October surprise has arrived. Let’s give Chris Christie and Barack Obama credit. They lead. They collaborate. They act. They do what Americans want political leaders to do: work together at a time of crisis. Meanwhile, the ubiquitous and disastrous Bush appointee and Romney supporter Michael Brown, known as "Brownie,” attacks the president for his excellent leadership during the hurricane crisis. And again Mitt Romney acts in character. He pandered to the right during the primaries by calling for the privatization of FEMA. He named as his running mate Paul Ryan, who favors decimating FEMA with devastating cutbacks. Romney spent Tuesday looking like a defendant on a perp walk refusing to answer at least 11 questions about his now-secret views on disaster relief.

The president is being the president. Mitt Romney is being the panderer. Brownie, God's gift to Democrats in the closing days of the campaign, reminds voters of the difference between the way President Obama has masterfully handled the crisis and the way President George W. Bush mismanaged Katrina.

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I feel Charles Krauthammer's pain. The leading conservative columnist finds himself allied with Brownie attacking the president for his masterful handling of the crisis, while the influential conservative New Jersey governor, Christie, who gave the keynote speech at the GOP convention, has earned high praise for his own masterful and compassionate handling of the crisis and his professionalism and integrity in working with and praising President Obama.

Let’s give credit where it is due. I have not been the biggest fan of Chris Christie, but he has handled the hurricane crisis with strong management and a compassionate demeanor. Christie reaches out to all New Jersey citizens with the professionalism and integrity to rise above politics even when this means praising a president of the other party, in the closing days of a campaign, because his praise of President Obama is earned.

And let’s say a few words about Mitt Romney. It is true Romney called for cutting the FEMA role. It is true that Romney called for privatizing FEMA and turning key functions of disaster relief over to profit-making companies. It is true that Romney named as his running mate Paul Ryan, who proposed cutting the FEMA budget by a devastating 35 percent, which would not be appreciated by those needing disaster relief from Ohio to Virginia and from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin.

Didn't Romney look ridiculous running away from reporters asking him where he stands on disaster relief? The president acts like the president. The Republican does the perp walk.

While Barack Obama and Chris Christie rise to the occasion and lead, the best thing I can say about Romney during this crisis is this:

To amend what Bogart said to Bergman in “Casablanca,” at least Romney will always have Brownie.