America Falls Out of Love With Obama and Christie

President Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former political darlings, have fallen on hard times.

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President Barack Obama is greeted by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie upon his arrival at Atlantic City International Airport, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in Atlantic City, NJ. Obama traveled to the region to take an aerial tour of the Atlantic Coast in New Jersey in areas damaged by superstorm Sandy.

Such sweet sorrow, Chris Christie and Barack Obama. 

Funny to remember these two men strolled on the beach and boardwalk after Hurricane Sandy, talking about mutually advantageous disaster relief. Truly they had the wind at their backs, all smiles and arm-in-arm. How rosy, romantic and bipartisan they looked.  

It's hard to fall out of love, but it's happened on both sides in Washington and beyond its city walls. For the New Jersey governor and the American president, all it took was a bridge and a book.

Heartbroken Republicans are breaking up with glib Gov. Christie. Deep in grief, they are asking why he (sort of) jumped off the George Washington Bridge in an act of political suicide. Even if he keeps his head above water, can they ever take him back? Don't his denials of wrongdoing sound oddly like the baddest boyfriend of all time, Richard M. Nixon?  

[See a collection of editorial cartoons on Chris Christie.]

The thrill is gone in the state where the fast-falling GOP presidential frontrunner built his fortune with a blunt object – his tongue. Now his swagger has a definite limp and his future is dashed. He is a "sad guy," in his own words, after an e-mail trail from engineering a massive bridge traffic jam in Fort Lee, N.J. led straight to his office. Christie fired some top aides for an act of political revenge. But in a rambling press conference of "personalismo" – (how could they do this to me?) – Christie glossed over being a poor judge of character in hiring these people. 

The national media was shaken and stirred too, because they lavished a lot of love on Christie. The mystery to me was how a roughcut governor who refused federal funds to build another Hudson River tunnel could be a serious national candidate. If Bruce Springsteen, New Jersey's greatest guy, refuses to give Christie the time of day, then that speaks volumes of verse to me. Springsteen was born to tell us the stuff people are made of; that's his job.  

Heartsick Democrats fell out of love with Barack Obama after his luckless year and a new memoir that confirmed wide suspicions. His heart just isn't in it, love or war. Robert Gates, the Washington elder who served as defense secretary, confessed his disenchantment because President Obama did not believe in his own warplan. 

Let me make clear, the process of falling out of love with Obama for many Democrats, liberals included, was a slow, wrenching process. Christie's fall from favor was mercifully quick by contrast.  

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Democratic Party.]

Obama kept us on the line with beautiful words, promises of a better future and, oh, that beaming smile He e-mailed us day and night. Tall, dark and handsome, he was the best thing we'd seen for years.  The euphoria multitudes felt on the National Mall five years ago as he was sworn in was a once-in-a-lifetime event. The oath Obama took sounded almost like mass wedding vows. He loved us as much as we loved him! We'd live happily ever after the dark Bush years. Oh yeah. The rapture did not last. 

It's no secret that there are few secrets left in America under the National Security Agency surveillance programs revealed by Edward Snowden. It came as a rude shock that our own president authorized all said programs, including spying on other heads of state. Drones and Guatanamo, let's not even go there. 

We couldn't help noticing that the president wasn't quite as awesome as he led us to believe. He failed to pass any bills in Congress in 2013, not even gun control after a devastating school shooting. Then there was the flop of the Obamacare "rollout." That made his landmark law look like amateur hour. As if mirroring the national mood, Michelle Obama didn't look too happy with him last month at Nelson Mandela's memorial service. (Something about a "selfie" he was taking.) 

[Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]

Now comes Gates with a memoir that reads like pure bittersweet grapefruit. He paints Obama as a puzzling man of contradictions when it came to the war in Afghanistan, the one he called his own to win during the 2008 campaign:  

The president doesn't trust his commander (Gen. David H. Petraeus), can't stand Karzai, doesn't believe in his own strategy and doesn't consider the war to be his.

A bit disillusioning, coming from the revered Gates. However, he was the second highest official at the CIA in the 1980s, when the agency missed the crumbling of the Soviet Union coming. So he's not perfect. Yet his book seems to have hit a nerve in the party faithful, familiar with Obama's reluctance to get too excited about stuff that happens. There's a growing sense of, darling, we can't pretend anymore. 

[Check out 2013: The Year in Cartoons.]

In another burst of candor, Gates expresses the lacking emotion for the true-blue crowd, civilian and military:  

I myself, our commanders, and our troops expected more commitment to the cause and more passion for it from him.

The passionate spark of the Obama presidency is good as gone. We know the glow won't come back. The man of 52  has aged before our eyes. But for the sake of the country, we have to stay together three more years.  

  • Read Charles Wheelan: Christie's Bridge Scandal Shows How Political Operatives Run Amok
  • Read Peter Roff: Hillary Clinton's 'Hit List' Is Standard Campaign Operating Procedure
  • Check out U.S. News Weekly, an insider's guide to politics and policy.