By Art Gallagher
Since the “chopper gate” story hit the fan last week, The Record’s Charles Stile has been gleefully making the case that the media and partisan noise about Governor Christie’s use of the State Police helicopter has been so ferocious because of “smash mouth” style. Stile, and other NJ media elites, have cited two recent polls, both taken before the chopper hullabaloo, that showed Christie’s approval ratings slipping as evidence that his style is wearing thin on New Jersey voters.
Stile has noted correctly that the chopper noise has been so harsh, despite the facts that Christie’s use of helicopter has been far more frugal than that of his predecessors and that his use of the chopper didn’t cost taxpayers anymore money than if he had traveled by SUV, because of Christie’s “in your face” plain spoken style. Christie’s political opponents and their media lapdogs have been laying in wait for an opportunity bash him back.
Stile has joined The Star Ledger’s Tom Moran in arguing that Christie should be nicer and more polite while turning Trenton upside down. Stile and Moran would have Christie’s compromising more and reforming less.
The irony here, from my point of view, is that over the last few months Christie has been nicer and more compromising. He’s toned it down. His opponents have subsequently stepped it up.
Maybe Christie’s poll numbers have slipped because he’s toned it down. Last spring he was railing against the NJEA and urging voters to defeat school budgets where unions wouldn’t compromise. Voters responded by defeating budgets in record numbers. Christie’s polls were strong. This spring Christie was silent on the school budgets.
Is there no more waste in our public schools? Has the the problem of excessive compensation, pensions and benefits been solved?
Since the GOP lost the legislative redistricting battle, Christie and Senate President Steve Sweeney announced a compromise over Supreme Court nominee Anne Patterson’s nomination that had been held up for a year. Part of the compromise included a promise by Sweeney that a hearing to fill the Court seat of former Justice John Wallace, which has been vacant for a year because Sweeney didn’t like that Christie did not reappoint Wallace, would take place next March. By making that agreement Christie acknowledged that Sweeney would still be Senate President in March, meaning Republicans are not going to win control of the State Senate in the coming election.
That the Democrats will retain control of the Legislature after the November election is probably realistic calculus on Christie’s part. He probably made a strategic decision that he can get more of his agenda accomplished by compromising than by fighting. That might be the best decision, but it also means that New Jersey will only have incremental improvement to our dysfunctional governments, rather than real reform…turning Trenton upside down reform…for the rest of Christie’s term.
I’d rather have the confrontational governor we elected. Even if it means stalemates and the shutting down of government, I’d rather Christie ridicule and embarrass the Trenton cesspool than compromise with it. Christie has only been in office less than 18 months. The cesspool has spent decades putting us into the mess we’re in.
As a matter of style, the chopper hullabaloo demonstrates that the media/establishment cesspool is not going to respond to a kinder, gentler Christie in kind. As a matter of substance, today’s news that the Democrats are going to attempt to increase education spending more than the Supreme Court has ordered and increase income taxes, demonstrates that the cesspool will always try to maintain and protect the status quo that makes them fat at the taxpayers’ expense.
Christie came into office promising to govern as if he only had one term to get the job done and without consideration for whether or not he’d be re-elected. Since then he has admittedly fallen in love with the job and become enamoured with national attention and presidential wooing his in your face style has brought to him.
Christie’s “in your face” style works. His adjustments should be by adding humor and charm to his ridicule, like Reagan did, not by compromising and being more polite.
If Christie has concluded that he has accomplished all he can in New Jersey with confrontation, he should get ready quickly and run for President. New Jersey and the United States both face horrendously serious problems. Compromise and tinkering around the edges of a broken system will not do.
We need Chris Chirstie’s unabashed leadership in New Jersey and in America. As Christie advised the new Republican leadership in Washington, we need to put up or shut up.
Shutting up is not an option.