Tag Archives: Chris Christie

Biting the Hand You Want to Feed You

January’s major snow storm did more than leave a couple of feet of snow along much of the eastern seaboard. It also caused major flooding and beach erosion in New Jersey shore towns.

How much damage? An estimated $82 million worth.

christieEnough that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie asked President Obama to issue a disaster declaration for the state, which is the necessary precursor to federal disaster aid.

The Curmudgeon hopes President Obama invites Christie to the White House to discuss the problem, and that when he does, he quotes Christie’s words about the president back to the failed presidential candidate:

The American people have rejected your agenda and now you’re trying to go around it. That’s not right. It’s not constitutional, and we are going to kick your rear end out of the White House come this fall.

(You can see Christie make these comments here.)

And it won’t happen, because regardless of what you think about his politics or his effectiveness, Mr. Obama is clearly too much of a gentleman to do so, but The Curmudgeon, for one, hopes that the only rear end kicked out of the White House is Christie’s.

Bad Guys Running Governments in New Jersey

Maybe it’s something in the water, but it looks like there’s an epidemic in New Jersey of people who think the only way to run a government is to act like a complete jackass.

By now we’re all familiar with a major part of the modus operandi of New Jersey’s number one jackass, governor Chris Christie. He attends a town hall meeting at which he knows there will be people eager to engage him about current issues or past decisions he’s made with which they disagree. He calls on these people and then, with the same degree of premeditation as a guy entering a bank with a gun in his hand and a stocking pulled down over his face, Christie berates them for daring to disagree with him. He’s even told people to sit down and shut up. Often, local or state police escort the questioner out of the room because it’s one thing to attend a town hall meeting at which you’re invited to talk about issues that matter to you but quite another to have the audacity to express that disagreement with a governor who believes that anyone who disagrees with him is an idiot and also believes it’s part of his job to tell such people he believes they’re idiots.

When Christie attends these meetings his entourage includes camera operators who, on cue, turn on their machines at the moment of confrontation – sort of like an episode of Cheaters – and then post that video on the internet as yet another example of courageous Chris Christie answering the tough questions and giving it back to anyone who dares disagree with him. It makes for great viewing and has especially played well outside the New Jersey area, where people don’t understand the context in which the confrontations are taking place. This approach has created a nation-wide cult following for the governor. Every few months The Curmudgeon’s late father, from his vantage point 3000 miles away in California, would say to his son, “Hey, you’ve got a really tough governor there, don’t you?” “No, dad,” his son would explain, “we have a jackass for a governor,” but dad was seeing all this on Fox News and there was no convincing him otherwise because after all, if it’s on Fox News it has to be fair and balanced and true, right?

Christie is now in his second term as governor and there won’t be a third because of term limits, and one of the people interested in succeeding him is Randy Brown, mayor of Evesham Township, where The Curmudgeon lives. How do we know Mayor Randy is interested in running for governor? Because the day after he won re-election last November he declared that interest, implying that he no longer had much interest in the job to which he’d just been re-elected.

So much for respecting his constituents.

The Curmudgeon has written about Marlton – that’s what everyone calls Evesham Township – in the past. If you’re interested, you can check it out here, here, and here.

Perhaps learning a lesson from the political benefits Chris Christie has reaped from his combativeness with people who dare disagree with him, Mayor Randy is taking a combative stance of his own – but in a very different way. Instead of getting in the face of people who want to ask him questions or disagree with him about something, he’s chosen – very publicly and rather defiantly – to ignore them.

The story, as told by the Philadelphia Inquirer, is that Mayor Randy had a confrontation with a resident at the town council’s December meeting about a tax abatement issue during the portion of the regular council meeting during which residents of the town are invited to ask questions of their elected officials. According to the report, the mayor became irate and started shouting and ended up pointing out that he had just won re-election so whatever he’s doing is fine with the public; he then refused to address the question the resident asked. The following month, the Inquirer reports, “…Brown made it clear that future council meetings would be different. Residents would not be permitted to question council members during public meetings, he said. Instead, they could ‘make comments only.’” When questioned by a reporter, Mayor Randy said that the only people who question him during council meetings are his political enemies and that people can question him when they see him around town. [Note: The Curmudgeon has lived in that small town for more than eleven years and has never, ever seen Mayor Randy outside of the municipal building since he became Mayor Randy.]

Mayor Randy made good on his promise at the next town council meeting, according to the Inquirer, and “…barely made eye contact with residents who came to the lectern to speak on topics including a leak in the public library ceiling. He said nothing to them, and a few times got up and started a conversation with a councilman two seats away.” When it appeared there were no more people interested in making comments or asking questions, Brown said “Anybody else? Go ahead. I’m rolling.” When no one replied, Brown added “Good.”

The latest chapter in this bizarre tale was written last week, when an unusual number of Marltonians – Marltonites? Eveshammers? – turned out for the monthly town council meeting to see what Mayor Randy might do next. What he did, for starters, was reverse his “no questions” policy – something he probably regretted, because shortly thereafter, Mayor Randy – who surrounded himself on the grandiose stage town officials erected for themselves with weird little tribal figures that he kept repositioning to hide his face or turn in the direction of the gathered – was back on the defensive about a property in the town that he sold to a developer and that was promptly given a tax abatement. Mayor Randy pointed out that he had recused himself from the vote on the abatement, as if that matters, and people clearly thought something was rotten in the state of New Jersey. Eventually Mayor Randy lashed out at his subjects, maintaining that the comments offered were all politically motivated and calling his critics cowardly because they didn’t run for public office themselves. Apparently, in Mayor Randy’s little part world, if you’re not an elected official you have no right to say anything. Then, to show their support for the guy who signs their paychecks, Marlton police officers escorted out of the room one of the people who dared challenge Mayor Randy’s ethics.

This story has tickled more than a few funny bones. A quick web search found that it has been reported in newspapers as far away as Washington, D.C. and Detroit. It’s not exactly something that’s going to earn him a segment on The O’Reilly Factor anytime soon but it’s not a bad start for a guy apparently trying to cultivate a reputation as a real political bad ass.

A few observations here.

First, this strikes The Curmudgeon as the antithesis of small town government. Aren’t people in small towns all supposed to be neighbors and isn’t this a textbook example of downright un-neighborly behavior?

Second, while this is a far cry from Christie’s approach, it’s no better; it’s highly combative in its refusal to tolerate confrontation at all. Apparently it’s a tradition in this town, and many others, to permit residents to come to town council meetings and ask questions. Mayor Randy’s decided to dispense with a tradition that he himself apparently honored throughout his first eight years in office, ostensibly because now that he’s been re-elected he’s certain he has the ultimate in mandates and no longer needs to suffer anyone questioning him. He’s especially intolerant of those he views as his enemies because among those who try to ask questions are a Republican who didn’t endorse him, a Democrat who ran against some of his running mates, and a school board candidate who had the audacity to run against one of the candidates Mayor Randy endorsed. That’s a pretty broad definition of what constitutes an enemy and suggests that Mayor Randy has some seriously thin skin and some even more seriously flawed judgment.

(Wait: an…enemies list? Could this be Richard Nixon reincarnated?)

Third, it suggests that Mayor Randy probably isn’t very well-suited for higher office. If he can’t handle the heat in a township of 40,000 there’s little reason to believe he can do better in a state of nine million – especially a state with those north Jersey people and their New York-infected personalities who would probably chew him up and spit him out. He’s demonstrating that he’s a small-town guy with a small-time mindset who is not, to borrow an expression from another sphere of endeavor, ready for prime time.

And fourth and last, it looks like it’s going to be a long four years for the residents of Marlton who have any interest in how their town is governed. Have a complaint? Tell it to someone who cares. Have a question? Too bad.

Chris Christie, Pigs, and Walking the Talk

Last week, New Jersey governor Chris Christie announced that he was vetoing a bill that would make it illegal for pig farmers in his state to confine pregnant pigs in crates so small that the pigs can’t turn around. His explanation for vetoing the bill was telling: among other things, he said the bill was a “solution in search of a problem.”

Let’s hope Christie continues to oppose laws that propose solutions for things that aren’t problems.

Actually, the pig-in-a-crate matter isn’t much of an issue in New Jersey, where there aren’t a whole lot of pig farms. It is a big issue, though, in Iowa, where Christie may soon be spending a great deal of time, and the bill was an opportunity for people with bad intentions to cause problems for him in that state before he even decides whether he wants to make Iowa his home away from home for the next year.

But the solution for things that aren’t a problem explanation is something that, to borrow from television police shows, can and should be used against Christie in the court of public opinion if the need arises in the future.

The Curmudgeon is specifically thinking about the continuing Republican effort to make it harder for poor people and people of color to vote.

The truth is, New Jersey hasn’t been involved in such efforts over the past few years. In fact, most of the election-related laws proposed in the New Jersey state legislature in recent years, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, have attempted to make it easier, not harder, for people to vote. True, New Jersey is one of a shrinking number of states without a state-wide early voting system and Christie vetoed a bill to change that, but he then turned around and authorized the use of mail-in and fax voting to help people displaced by Hurricane Sandy. Without question, and to Christie’s credit, he has not been among those trying to suppress the vote of the very people who are least likely to vote for him.

But that may be changing.

In addition to being governor of New Jersey, Christie has two other roles that appear to be influencing, or really, softening, his apparent opposition to making it harder for people to vote. First, he’s considering running for president. Second, he’s chairman of the Republican Governors Association, and in that capacity, his resolve against vote suppression is showing signs of weakening.

Not too long ago, Christie appeared before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform – and let’s not get The Curmudgeon started on the kinds of reforms chamber of commerce types would like, because they’re mostly out of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and involve paying people less money to work longer hours under more hazardous conditions. In his speech, Christie said he wants to see Republican governors in charge of state “voting mechanisms” when the 2016 presidential election is contested.

Yes, that’s what he called them: “voting mechanisms.”

Speaking about important presidential battleground states like Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin, Christie told his audience that

The fact is it doesn’t matter if you don’t really care what happens in these states… you’re going to care about who is running the state in November of 2016, what kind of political apparatus they’ve set up and what kind of governmental apparatus they’ve set up to ensure a full and fair election in 2016.

“Governmental apparatus”? Please. That’s short-hand for a number of vote-suppression measures we’ve all come to know well in recent years:

  • Requiring voters to present photo ID at the polls. This blossomed as a Republican tactic a few years ago even though – or perhaps specifically because ­– by now it’s well-established that the elderly and people of color are far less likely than others to possess such identification and to have the means and opportunity to obtain such identification. What’s also well-established is that the states that attempt to do this are the same states where the elderly, and especially people of color, are voting in greater numbers than ever.
  • Movements to reduce or eliminate Sunday early voting programs. This has become one of the main tools African-American and Latino churches use to encourage their members to vote – a practice that has come to be known as “souls to the polls – and of course, Republicans want as few African-Americans and Latinos souls visiting those polls as possible.
  • Cutting back on other early voting approaches. This may come as a surprise to you ­– it certainly did to The Curmudgeon – but one-third of all voters voted early in the last two presidential elections. Since Republicans don’t like how those elections turned out…
  • Limiting voter registration drives. Campaigns to encourage people to register to vote may seem as American as apple pie and Chevrolet, but Florida, Illinois, Texas, and Virginia actually limit such drives. Why? Because such campaigns tend to produce more registered minority voters and more registered Democrats.
  • Efforts to end same-day registration. This was a great idea: let people who aren’t registered to vote do so on election day. When it turned out that most of the people who did that registered as Democrats, Republicans turned around and started closing the door on this option.
  • Requiring proof of citizenship at the time of registration. Do YOU have proof of citizenship? If not, do you have any idea, off the top of your head, where you’d go or what you’d do to get it? Didn’t think so.

The problem here is that the people who are considered “true” conservatives these days – you know, the loony ones – are very suspicious of Chris Christie, and if he’s going to have any kind of chance of winning their votes in primary elections, he’s going to have to do something – exactly what isn’t clear, but something – to prove he’s one of them. He’s started to criticize President Obama more, but his gratitude for the president’s swift and effective response to Hurricane Sandy so enraged conservative voters – apparently, they would have preferred that storm-displaced New Jersey residents just go away and die rather than receive assistance from a federal government led by a Democrat – that Christie’s going to have to throw these people a bone sometime soon.

And his remarks before the Chamber of Commerce suggest that access to the ballot may be that bone.

So…

Knowing as we all do that vote fraud is truly a non-problem in this country – The Curmudgeon has written about this before, as have many others – The Curmudgeon hopes that if and when Christie makes voting issues his bone, people will remind him about his dismissive rejection of the pig cage legislation because it was a solution in search of a problem.

Just like attempting to limit access to the ballot in the name of fighting election fraud is a solution in search of a problem.

And that instead of going for that bait, Christie will declare attempts to make it harder for people to register and vote exactly that – a solution in search of a problem – and walk his talk by rejecting such nonsense.

“Stronger Than the Storm”

New Jersey’s big summer advertising  campaign this year is “stronger than the storm.”  It’s the state’s way of telling summer beach-goers that even after Hurricane Sandy, the beaches are ready for them, their frisbees, and their obnoxious children.

And it’s also a way to use state and federal money to pay for Governor Chris Christie to be on television a lot during a year when he’s running for re-election (and also preparing to run for President, heaven help us all, in 2016).

But “stronger than the storm”?  Really?  A bunch of mostly wealthy people with government-subsidized insurance for seven-figure second homes are “stronger than the storm”?

Not likely, but The Curmudgeon will tell you someone who was REALLY stronger than the storm.

Noah.

That’s right, Noah.  Now THERE’S a guy who never let the wind and rain deter him and who was stronger than the storm.Noah

Mini-Rumination: Fat Jokes at Christie’s Expense on MSN.com?

Yesterday – but apparently just for a few minutes – msn.com offered an account of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s displeasure with gazillionaire Warren Buffett.  The source of Christie’s pique was Buffett’s oft-repeated contention that wealthier Americans are undertaxed and can afford to pay more.

Christie, of course, dislikes damn near everyone, so Buffett should wear Christie’s disdain like a badge of honor.

But what makes the msn.com piece so interesting was the original headline:

NJ guv:  Buffet should pay up

Of course, “Buffet” is a misspelling, and in the two minutes it took The Curmudgeon to check out the headline after a reader informed him about it, msn.com had already corrected it.

But was it really a typo?  Or was it a headline writer offering a sly but obvious commentary about Christie, easily deniable as an honest mistake, and taking advantage of the play on words laid so perfectly at his (or her) feet?

Because we all know that while Christie may dislike Buffett, he certainly likes buffet.

Oh, what a difference a “t” makes.

Chris Christie and the Non-Apology Apology

Over the years we have all become familiar with the non-apology apology.  That’s when someone apologizes for saying something you didn’t like but doesn’t actually apologize for the thing they said that you didn’t like.

For example, let’s say The Curmudgeon called you ugly (by the way – he would never do that).  A real apology would be “I’m so sorry I said you’re ugly.  I didn’t mean it and it was a stupid and thoughtless thing to say.  Please forgive me.”  A non-apology apology is more like “I’m sorry you were offended that I said you were ugly.”  In the latter, The Curmudgeon wouldn’t be apologizing for what he said; he’d only be apologizing for his words hurting you.  Many public apologies – and a lot of private ones, too – take this form.

We’ve also become familiar with the passive voice apology.  The one that first comes to mind for The Curmudgeon was back in the 1990s.  It had something to do with the White House “Travelgate” controversy and it came from Hillary Clinton.  At the time, Mrs. Clinton declared “Mistakes were made.”  Not “we made mistakes” or “I made mistakes” but “mistakes were made.”  The passive voice apology is a way of acknowledging mistakes without ever coming out and saying “It was my fault.”  It’s a way of distancing yourself, the mistake-maker, from the mistake itself.

And that brings us to the latest public non-apology apology, and for that, take New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Please.

Governor Christie has developed quite a national reputation in recent years.  The Curmudgeon’s father, for example, lives 3000 miles from New Jersey, but he’s a Fox News watcher who will periodically call his son and say, “Your governor’s a pretty tough guy, isn’t it?”  No, dad, actually, he’s not.  He certainly talks a good game, but from what your son can tell, he’s mostly a blowhard.

Actually, Chris Christie is a bully, and he’s one of the best around.  In his world, anyone who doesn’t agree with him is stupid – and he can’t wait to tell them so.  In fact, his reputation is that if he knows he’s going someplace where people will be expressing displeasure or disagreement with him, he makes a point of bringing a video team with him to capture the verbal smackdown he delivers.

Appearances notwithstanding, food isn’t Mr. Christie’s favorite thing to stuff in his mouth.

His foot is.

That foot and that mouth got Mr. Christie into trouble recently when he attempted to explain his position about the right of gay people to marry.  Mr. Christie is against it and said he’d veto any law his state legislature presented to him, but he also said he thinks the public should decide and is willing to abide by the outcome of a state-wide referendum.  If New Jersey voters says yes to gay marriage, he’ll sign a gay marriage bill into law, he says.

Mr. Christie attempted to draw a comparison to the civil rights movement, suggesting that he’s giving proponents of gay marriage an opportunity that civil rights leaders in the 1960s might have appreciated as an alternative to dying in the streets.  It’s not a terrible analogy, but Mr. Christie apparently expressed it so poorly that it managed to offend a lot of people.

The thing with big-mouth bullies is that they attract a lot of attention – hence, for example, the silly interest in having Mr. Christie run for president that ran rampant in some circles last year.  People follow what such bullies say very carefully, and as a result, a lot of people got very upset about what Mr. Christie said.  When one of those people was Georgia congressman John Lewis – a civil rights icon and one of The Curmudgeon’s heroes – Mr. Christie realized it was time to eat crow instead of his foot and just apologize.

So here, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, is what he told the audience of the radio show “Ask the Governor.”

To those folks out there who were somehow offended or concerned about the ambiguity in my statement, I apologize.

This is a classic non-apology apology.  It’s so good, so classic, that Webster’s could use it as an example in the dictionary under “non-apology apology.”

“To those folks out there who were somehow offended…”?  “Somehow offended?”  He’s calling those people stupid, as in “How on earth were you offended by what I said?  Are you people idiots?”

And notice that he’s not apologizing for what he said; he’s apologizing for “the ambiguities in my statement.”  Not for the statement itself.

In no alternative universe is Governor Christie’s apology a real apology.  To the contrary, it’s unapologetic and even defiant in its unapologetic-ness.

But then, that’s Chris Christie.  It’s hard to beat the bully out of a bully.