New Jersey doesn't have a reputation for sober, reasonable politics, but even by Garden State standards, last week's eruption over what Governor Chris Christie told a small gathering of wealthy conservatives (including the infamous Koch brothers) in Colorado is outrageous.
Here's the skinny from an article on nj.com: In June, Christie's landmark bill to reform public workers' pensions and benefits was headed for the Assembly with the support of the Democratic speaker, Sheila Oliver. According to transcripts of the Colorado meeting released by Mother Jones magazine, Oliver called Christie and said she feared that members of her party would vote to oust her as Speaker if she posted the bill. She asked him to rally support for her from Republicans if that happened, so Christie went to his people and got them to agree.
The transcripts of the address can be found on The Brad Blog.
Oliver, to put it mildly, disagrees with Christie's account. Her words? "Gov. Christie is more mentally deranged than some of us thought. That’s a blatant lie."
And she's not the only outspoken Democrat in the state. After the pension and benefit bill was passed, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) called the governor a “rotten prick” and a “bastard” for line-item vetoing a whole host of Democratic-supported social programs. Of course, Sweeney should have held the budget hostage during the pension debate in order to horse trade what he wanted, but the union lug decided he would trust another politician. As Bugs Bunny would say, "What a maroon."
But back to the Oliver-Christie hubbub. Methinks that Oliver's account has more truth to it. I say that because I was involved in making phone calls to legislators the week that they were going to vote on the pension and benefits bill. According to the Governor's account, Oliver called him on Thursday, June 23 to get his support. The inconsistency is that Oliver already had the support of 8 Democrats by that time, essentially insuring that the bill would pass (here's an article). Any revolt would have occurred on Monday or Tuesday, June 20 and 21, when the bill was being debated by the Democratic caucus. By the time Christie says that Oliver called him, she would have reasonably assumed that the danger to her standing was over (of course, this is just my speculation). Remember that the bill had already passed the State Senate, also with Democratic support, because of the deal that Steve Sweeney made with the prick, um, Christie. By Thursday, it appeared to be a done deal.
I have no doubt that Christie believes what he told the Colorado gathering. He has done an extremely effective job promoting himself as an aggressive, take-no-prisoners leader and any search of his YouTube town hall appearances will show him bullying even the mildest audience members who dare to question his priorities. He's taken advantage of a geographic split in the state's Democratic representatives and is even seen as a potential national politician. This would be a disaster, by the way, but Americans might have to learn that the hard way.
The entire legislature is up for election this November and all indications are that the Democrats will retain their majority. Now if they would only act like Democrats, that might actually make me feel better.