Jim McGreevey is Governor Christie’s Ethical Compass?
In the summer of 2004, U.S. Attorney Chris Christie had Governor Jim McGreevey on the ropes. McGreevey was “State Official #1,” an unindicted co-conspirator in a pay for play scheme that nabbed Democratic fund-raiser David D’Amiano. A few weeks later McGreevey was resigning, purportedly because he was a “Gay American” who gave his boyfriend an important homeland security job that he wasn’t qualified to perform.
Yesterday, a decade later, Governor Christie is hanging his hat, and his orange sweater, on a McGreevey Executive Order that exempts the Governor from New Jersey’s ethics laws against accepting gifts.
Chris Christie marched into Trenton promising to turn the place upside down. Five years later McGreevey is Christie’s ethical compass. Not the man McGreevey has become over the last 10 years. Christie’s ethical compass is the man he investigated and probably could have indicted and convicted. To paraphrase Christie on the stump for Mitt Romney two years ago, something got turned upside down in Trenton, but it wasn’t the culture of government that Christie promised he would impact and overturn.
About the best thing we can say about Christie accepting gifts of travel on private jets and seats in owner’s boxes at NFL games is at least it was family friendly entertainment with the cameras running, unlike the alleged entertainment U.S. Senator Bob Menendez flew off to on a friend’s private jet.
While running for Governor in 2009 Christie promised to govern as a one term executive without regard for politics. He would do the right thing regardless of the political fallout. If the people liked the results, he would be reelected. He would make the tough decisions. He would restore order and fiscal sanity to Trenton. He would remake the Courts and gut COAH. He would appeal to the people to pressure the legislature if they wouldn’t go along with the reforms he demanded. “Watch me,” he said. We did and we cheered. We pressured the legislature and we voted down school budgets when he asked us to.
We can forgive Christie for breaking his promise to govern without regard for politics, if he ever meant it. Nancy Reagan and Henry Kissinger whispering in your ear that you are the savior of the Republic has to be heady stuff. But the left turn the Governor has taken on the Boulevard of Compromise turned out to be a dead end for New Jersey and dead end for Christie politically.
McGreevey’s Executive Order probably gives Christie legal cover for accepting hundreds of thousands in travel and football seats from Jerry Jones. But it is another nail in the coffin of a governorship that started with great promise but has had the wheels fall off in the last year.
Christie is not likely to be elected President in 2016. It was very unlikely that he would have been nominated before this latest ethical failure. Unless you’re the son of a president, a Vice President or World War II hero, the Republican Party does not nominate candidates on their first try for the presidency. If Christie is nominated for President next year he will join such historical figures as Alf Landon, Wendell Willkie and Barry Goldwater as Republican nominees who had not previously competed for the nomination. Each of them were running against an incumbent.
But what hurts Christie’s chances for the presidency more than the fact that he hasn’t earned the gold watch yet is his record in New Jersey. “The Dr. Kevorkian of Numbers,” as Christie called the Office of Legislative Services Budget Officer David Rosen turned out to be The Amazing Kreskin and Andrew P. Sidamon-Eristoff turned out to be Pollyanna in their budget forecasts.
The New Jersey Comeback stalled due to high spending, high taxes and onerous regulation. There is no prospect for the New Jersey economy coming back in the foreseeable future. So says former U.S. Senator Bob Torricelli.
During his live TV interview with Steve Adubato last month, Christie said that his decision to run for president rested on the affirmative answer to three questions; 1) Is it right for him? 2) is it right for his family? and 3) is it right for the country? Adubato followed up by asking how former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s candidacy impacts the decision. Christie said, “That’s not one of the three questions.”
“Is it right for New Jersey?” is also not one of the questions. It should be, for the good New Jersey’s future and Christie’s. Because if New Jersey keeps heading in the direction it is heading, Christie will be remembered like Christie Whitman and New Jersey will continue its steep decline.
Christie’s best shot at the presidency is in 2020 or 2024, IF he leaves a positive legacy in New Jersey.
Christie should compete for the Republican nomination this time out, so he can earn the gold watch for the next time, but he should make his national headlines from New Jersey. He should focus on producing results like Governor Scott Walker has in Wisconsin and Governor John Kasich has in Ohio. He should produce the reforms he promised in 2009, or fail fighting for them, as he promised he would.
Most Christie followers will remember his famous “sit down and shut up” encounter with former Asbury Park Councilman Jim Keady in Belmar last November. Few probably remember what Keady’s message was that prompted Christie’s outburst. Keady was holding a sign that said “Stay Home and Finish the Job.”
Christie needs to finish the job, whether he runs for president or not.
We’ll know soon if Christie is interested in finishing the job. Early indications are that he isn’t. I hope that changes, but if it doesn’t, New Jersey’s Republican Legislative Leaders, County Chairs and sane moderate Democrats need to jump out of Christie’s shadow and get serious about turning the economy of this state around by cutting taxes, spending and regulation on all levels, especially the state level.
Otherwise, there is not going to much left to fight for.