Sunday, August 17, 2014

Christie: Proof He'll Run, Reasons He'll Lose

There can be no doubt that Governor Chris Christie will be running for president in 2016. He's taken trips to the states with the earliest primaries and caucuses and he's even begun commenting on foreign affairs. Not that he's at all qualified in that area, but when did that ever stop him from talking? The most convincing evidence of his intention to pursue a national run, though, comes from his latest actions in New Jersey, and ironically, those might actually cause his downfall.

First up is the New Jersey economy, which is limping along in no small part to the governor's refusal to do anything that will stimulate it. The jobs picture has not improved as much as the national numbers and Christie continues to blame middle class workers such as teachers, firefighters, police officers and government workers for the problem. Yes, he was able to get a landmark pensions and benefits bill through the Democratic legislature in 2011, but now, three years later, he's gone back on his promise to pay a full public pension payment because he says that the problem has not been fixed and that workers need to pay even more for their future benefits.

The "No Pain, No Gain"  tour has been a colossal failure so far mainly because the public is slowly coming around to the idea that public workers can't be squeezed any more and that Christie's refusal to ask wealthy New Jerseyans for more in taxes is good old fashioned Republican trickle down economics. The kind that hasn't worked since Ronald Reagan tried it back in 1981.  All it's lead to is wealthier wealthy people and a scramble for decent wages for the middle and working classes.

What's worse is that Christie appointed a committee to investigate why pensions and benefits need continued reform and
The head of a New Jersey board that determines how the state invests its pension money was in direct contact with top political and campaign fundraising aides for Gov. Chris Christie as the governor last fall mounted a successful bid for a second term.
So any chance that this committee will be an independent arbiter or that it will fairly assess the pros and cons of Christie's plan will be, say, nil.

The next clue to Christie's intentions comes from the fact that he and his adviser's are now becoming very stingy with information about the governor's public schedule. This is a guy who ran on transparency and openness and is now going all legalistic on the public and saying things like, "You guys want everything. You’re not entitled to everything. So we give you what you’re entitled to under the law. And I think that’s fair."

Fair, maybe. Politically smart? Not so much. If you want to be president, you should give the press the free stuff that it asks for and withhold the difficult information. That placates the press and makes it more likely that they'll give you a pass on the tough issues. And what's on the governor's schedule that would preclude him from fully disclosing it? More helicopter rides? Getaways to the Bahamas? It just doesn't make sense, and it belies Christie's desire to be known as an open politician. That's how he ran in 2009 and 2013. But now that he wants to be president, he's playing political word games.

And then there's that famous Christie personality, the one that yells at teachers, people in the military, retirees looking for answers, and anybody who deigns to disagree with him, available 24 hours a day on YouTube. Now we can add Twitter to the Governor's growing list of anti-social media harangues. Last week Christie involved himself in a discussion that frustrated commuters were having after yet another delay on the NJ Transit train system. They were also discussing the lack of another tunnel to and from New York and the fact that Christie's veto of a bill that would have provided money for a new tunnel leaves the prospect of relief far into the future. At a time when the governor could have provided for a little understanding and love, he again chose to argue, and that's not a good strategy when people are stuck in a station with no way to get home.

I suppose that Christie believes that yelling and belittling people who disagree with him is a sign of great leadership, but in the end, I think that this will ultimately sink him. Americans might be tiring of President Obama's cool detached manner, but they don't want a bully with a volatile personality in the Oval Office. We need a pragmatic, thoughtful person to interact with the country and the world.

We'll need to look elsewhere for that.

For more, go to or Twitter @rigrundfest 


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