As a politician, we always assumed that Chris Christie had to have some hypocrisy in his blood. After all, he promised not to touch teacher's pensions when he was running for Governor and we know how that promise turned out. He also said that he would use his prosecutorial skills to ferret out corruption in New Jersey, but that seems to be off the table as well.
Now comes word that the Governor is four-square behind a referendum on marriage equality in the state, but dead set against citizens voting on whether they want charter schools in their districts. Bob Braun's article this week highlights Christie's double vision, and an equal dose of doublespeak on the legislature's part, with a sharp razor's edge:
The contradiction — hypocrisy? — was set up nicely the other day when Assembly committees acted on the two issues. The Assembly Judiciary Committee, on a party-line vote, released a gay marriage bill; the Assembly Education Committee, also on a party-line vote, approved a bill allowing local voters to decide whether they want to pay for charter schools in their communities.
In the Judiciary Committee, the Republicans were for referendum and the Democrats were not. In the Education Committee, the opposite was true.
While the panels were meeting, Christie was at a town hall meeting and he repeated his insistence that same-sex marriage go to a referendum. "The fact is, they don’t trust the people of New Jersey to decide," he said.
He made the comment at a charter school — and the governor has repeatedly said he would veto any bill allowing referendums on charter schools.
Nicely done, Bob.
But it doesn't stop there. Christie the unalloyed conservative is now trying to recast himself as something of a moderate, figuring, correctly in my view, that the conservative movement will see a massive flame-out this year and recede from the Republican Party leading up to the 2016 election (assuming that Mitt Romney loses in November. Which he will.). This piece by Charles Stile has all the details. By calling for a referendum on marriage equality, Christie doesn't have to veto a bill that would alienate gays. By signing a 10% income tax cut, he can play to the economic conservatives without bankrupting the state. And he can blame the Democratic majority if the plan is shelved.
How is this working out? Not bad according to this poll, but there are problems. Almost half of the respondents think Christie is concerning himself too much with his own political future, so he'll have to run softer and maybe give up the dream of becoming Vice-President under Romney.
And just yesterday, the good guv'nor picked another fight with the New Jersey Education Association over comments NJEA Executive Director Vince Giordano made over the effects of school vouchers on urban public schools. Said Christie:
"As Vince drives out of the palace on State Street in his big luxury car and his $500,000 salary, I'm sure life's really fair for him and if Vince's kids were in a failing school district he could afford to send them to any school in New Jersey that could help them succeed."
Never mind that NJEA headquarters is hardly a palace or what Giordano's salary is. Christie and his family are plenty wealthy, live in a fairly exclusive suburb, and the Governor sends his children to one of the priciest private schools in the state. There's something seriously wrong with calling out someone whose work supports the very teachers that Christie has been vilifying for his entire, um, tenure, in office.
As for the real issue, the evidence shows that both vouchers and charters are not the panacea he claims, but both do take public money out of the school systems that Christie blames for not meeting students' and parents' needs. He's robbing the system, then blaming it for being ineffective.
For more, go to: www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives and Twitter @rigrundfest