Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Love Him Or Hate Him, Why Christie Matters
We had to laugh when we saw that six New Jersey newspapers have called for Chris Christie to resign because, presumably he's spending too much time out of state.
To begin with, this is why New Jersey now has a Lieutenant Governor, first elected in 2009. Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno takes charge when Governor Christie is here in New Jersey or in the event that he is incapacitated. And, she's quite reliable and quite good at the job.
Which makes us wonder what all the fuss is about. Don't you think it's just a bit our of proportion? Are people calling for Governor Kasich to resign in Ohio? Did they call on Governor Jindal to resign in Louisiana when he achieved national prominence? What about Governor Perry when he was in the same position in Texas? Was there a great hue and cry demanding that Perry resign? And, we've heard no outcries against Senators Sanders, Rubio or Cruz demanding their resignations.
Aside from being pure politics, we fear that this nonsense about Governor Christie resigning sadly casts a pall of provincialism and small-mindedness over our state -- a state that for far too long has had a chip on its shoulder. It's as if New Jersey does not deem itself worthy of a governor who is nationally known and has achieved significant national influence. (Horrors! We don't want that to happen, do we?) To all this we must cry out: "Grow up New Jersey! Get real. Try showing some sophistication for a change!"
Because, you know maybe -- just maybe -- it might do us some good for New Jersey to have some real influence on the national stage and at the highest levels of government. Could it hurt?
And while we're on this we see that everyone's making a big deal today about Governor Christie's appearance at the Donald Trump news conference last night. Christie stood to Trump's right (stage left) and was in the TV shot the whole time. The kindest term they're using to describe Christie's role last night has been "wing man" and the words and phrases they're using deteriorate from there. We won't repeat some of the insults here.
OK, so Christie was with The Donald last night and Trump made a few asides referring to Christie and joked a bit. So what? What's the big deal? Christie and Trump have known each other for quite some time and have called one another "friends." Would you want a New Jersey governor who did not have some kind of relationship with Trump who is right across the river and who who has significant property and businesses in New Jersey? Would you?
And yes, Christie has endorsed Trump for president. Why? We gave a lot of reasons right here on this blog. But, presumably Christie thinks Trump is the man for the job -- that Trump is a straight-talker (like Christie) who who is pragmatic (like Christie) who can make deals (like Christie) and who can get things done -- that The Donald can get things done on a national scale the way Christie did in his own state.
But, let's face this as well: Christie likes the limelight. He likes to be "in the arena," as Teddy Roosevelt described it. Governor Christie understands full well what Oliver Wendell Holmes once said: "A man should share in the action and the passion of his times at the cost of being judged not to have lived." Christie's alive; he in the mix; he's in the fray. And, so long as he's around you're gonna know about it.
And the Governor like to hang out with famous and powerful people. He likes to be with celebrities. If you had worked and worked and worked to get to the point where you could be around well-known, powerful, important people wouldn't you want to hang out with them? C'mon -- you know you would. You'd want to hang out with them right now even though you may have done absolutely nothing to warrant entré into their circles. You know you's jump at the chance
Can you imagine a single politician in New Jersey who wouldn't want to spend some time at Trump's sumptuous Mar a Lago or in the owner's box at any NFL game or front and center at a Bruce Springsteen concert? Don't you think that New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney would love to kibitz with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show or chat with Matt Lauer on The Today Show or trade barbs with the hosts on Morning Joe or Hannity or O'Reilley. You know he would. You just know that people like Sweeney and Jersey City Mayor Steve Fullop or the Speaker of the State Assembly (whatever his name is these days) would give anything for that opportunity.
But they haven't done these things and they're not likely to anytime soon. On the other hand, Governor Christie has and he seems perfectly natural in those roles whether it's a serious interview on Meet The Press or a more jocular session as on The Tonight Show. Christie's a natural in these settings, yes. But he's also a very quick learner. He can adapt faster than any of them. And he honestly enjoys the Big Stage. Look, he grew up in the shadow of New York. He's at home in that environment. And he has the sort of talent for repartee that the Big Apple loves.
But, here's the thing about Christie: He's equally at home on the streets of Newark (where he was born) or Livingston (where he spent his formative years) or Camden (where he has visited more times than any governor in recent memory) or any other town in the Garden State from Belmar to Bellmawr. And he never, ever loses sight of his roots. He didn't go to the Wharton School. He went to Delaware and Seton Hall. His dad didn't give him a million bucks to play around with and he'll be happy to tell you how his hard-working, middle class parents stretched dollars while joking about the "money tree in the back yard." Christie hasn't forgotten all that. Not for a minute.
And we can tell you this for sure: Governor Christie is wiser in the ways of the world (as anyone would be who's made the journey he has) and he may now be even less inclined to suffer fools but he's still very much the same authentic guy that we met when he first started his run for statewide office. He's quick-witted, brash, funny, engaging and, above all, real. He gets it. He knows that ordinary Americans are frustrated because he understands where they're coming from. He knows they want a major power shift, not just a midcourse adjustment.
Bottom line: Governor Chris Christie is truly consequential -- perhaps the single most consequential New Jerseyan in our lifetime. And that ain't no small amount of time, folks.