Later, under a steady drizzle in Asbury Park before a crowd of almost 4,000, Obama said the job of repairing the $38 billion in damage inflicted by the storm is not over. He said his return visit was intended to show he’s still committed to putting the federal government to work. When all is said and done, Obama assured people, the Jersey Shore will be better and more resilient than it was before.
“I could see being a little younger and having some fun on the Jersey Shore,” Obama said to laughter. “I can’t do that anymore. Maybe after I leave office.”
In introducing the president, Christie noted that Obama visited the state two days after the storm hit “to see the damage for himself, to pledge his support and the support of the federal government to help us recover and rebuild.
“Republicans, Democrats, independents — we all came together, because New Jersey is more important and our citizens are more important than any kind of politics at all,” Christie said. “So now, seven months later, we know this, that we’ve made great progress, but that we still have so much more to do.”
Obama said his message to residents in storm-ravaged New Jersey also holds true for those in Oklahoma recovering from the May 20 tornado that killed 24 people and devastated the community of Moore.
“When we make a commitment that we got your back, we mean it,” Obama said. Gesturing to his host, Obama praised Christie for the “the great work he’s done here” in leading the recovery effort.
In Washington on Tuesday, first lady Michelle Obama welcomed students from two New Jersey schools damaged by the storm to the White House garden, where they gathered vegetables and made flatbread pizza alongside students from other states.
“It hasn’t been that easy, but you guys have managed to get through the school year way on top of the game, and we’re just very proud of you,” Mrs. Obama told the students from New Jersey.
The visit to the Jersey Shore gave Obama an opportunity to shift attention, if for the moment, from the IRS political upheaval as well as the ongoing debate about the fatal attacks at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, and an investigation of leaks to the media that has stirred opposition from the media and many lawmakers.
With Congress away for a Memorial Day break, Obama had the megaphone mostly to himself.