Christie vs. Christie: Statements on the big snowstorm, then and now
What a difference a few weeks makes.
The week of Jan. 24, as New Jersey — and in particular, hard-hit southern Shore communities — cleaned up from a storm that dumped a season's worth of snow on the Garden State, then-presidential candidate Chris Christie was facing heavy criticism from media pundits and local officials for downplaying the impact of the storm while returning to the campaign trail in New Hampshire.
Well, he seemed to be. Christie said at the time he hadn't heard any criticism and accused an MSNBC reporter of making the criticism up.
But in the former candidate's and still-governor's application for federal disaster relief Friday — seeking aid for 17 counties he said sustained an estimated $82.6 million in damages — Christie describes a far more serious impact on the Garden State than his tone at the time suggested.
To be fair, some of the language in the disaster relief application and accompanying press statement is boilerplate, echoing verbiage from past applications — and if you want the feds to cough up the cash, you've got to make the case there's a good reason.
(A little recent-history perspective: Christie initially said he didn't plan to return to New Jersey from the campaign, but that he could if circumstances changed — and shortly after, forecasts began predicting a more severe storm. He then returned the Friday evening of the storm weekend.
The state got pounded by snow, and Cape May County saw serious flooding that Saturday; more moderate flooding was experienced in Ocean and other parts north. Sunday saw continued flooding in Cape May, though not at nearly the levels of the day before. Wildwood police were still reporting flooding along several streets Sunday as well. Surf City Police said that Sunday they were overwhelmed with calls about which roads were passable as flooding continued, though some of the flooding had receded by then.Wildwood police were still reporting flooding along several streets Sunday as well.
Christie had said that Sunday “we have no concerns for flooding the rest of the day today” before returning to New Hampshire for a campaign appearance early afternoon.
Down Township Mayor Bob Campbell told NJ Advance Media he estimated damage of $100,000 to $200,000 in his community, though protective measures taken after Sandy helped prevent worse problems.)
Here's a quick look at what Christie said then and now:
THEN: “We’ve really done very very well in this storm, and we have no concerns about damage or damage from flooding anytime soon,” Christie said on CNN Sunday, Jan. 24, just before returning to New Hampshire. The governor said that reflected his conversations with local officials.
NOW: "These high tides, along with strong offshore winds of 60 miles per hour, contributed to a storm surge that caused coastal flooding in areas of southern New Jersey," Christie said in a press statement about the relief application (the language is in his relief application letter to President Barack Obama as well). "The cumulative effects from the storm and coastal flooding caused beach erosion and severely damaged or destroyed dunes, dune grass, crossovers, and bulkheads."
THEN: "We managed the storm extraordinarily well, New Jersey Transit was back at noon yesterday after the storm, our roads were all open as of 7 a.m. yesterday and so, you know, I think that’s just folks who want to criticize me for anything that I do," Christie said on MSNBC's Morning Joe the Monday following the storm.
NOW: "I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that an effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and the affected county and local governments, and that federal assistance is necessary to supplement the efforts and available resources of state, county, and local governments and disaster relief organizations," Christie said in the disaster relief press statement.
THEN: Christie on the Morning Joe appearance, accused Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein of “making up” stories about criticism for ignoring heavy damage. “I don’t even know what critics you’re talking about,” Christie said, “There is no residual damage, there is no residual flooding damage."
NOW: The disaster recovery application letter states: "The erosion and damages to these protective coastal barrier systems are to the point where a future five-year storm will cause damage to improved property. Should additional storms impact the area, the state will also be at risk of additional flooding because of the damage to dune systems from this storm."
THEN: During a town hall in Hooksett, N.H., the Monday after the storm, the first question came from a woman who said she went to school in New Jersey and and asked the governor on behalf of her friends and family from New Jersey why he was in New Hampshire and not surveying blizzard damage. She said she'd seen pictures of flooding all over the state.
Christie replied, “All over the state? Really? There’s been one county that’s flooded in the state. That was Cape May County. I don’t know where from ‘all over the state’ since we have 21 counties where that’s happened. I don’t know what you expect me to do. Do you want me to go down there with a mop?” (He later said he believed the woman was a plant from another campaign.)
NOW(ish) (more like a few days after THEN): Christie, later questioned about the mop comment, told reporters: “I was here. You can’t be AWOL when you’re here. Yeah, I’ve been here plenty. It’s a joke — if you don’t like the joke you don’t like it, that’s all.” But he did apologize for calling North Wildwood's mayor "crazy" for having said the storm hit his area worse than superstorm Sandy did.