Sunday, February 15, 2015

Christie Tells It Like It Isn't

It's getting a bit too easy finding contradictions and hypocritical statements in what Governor Chris Christie is saying these days. That must mean he's running for president.

On his signature issue, pension and benefit reform, the governor went back on his promise to make a full payment for 2014, and his administration even argued in court that the 2011 reform bill is unconstitutional. These are both odd turns, but they are simply a matter of doing business under a man who shamelessly switches policy positions, excoriates those who disagree with him, and simply does what is politically expedient with no central philosophy or plan to guide him.

And through all of this hypocrisy, Christie has the nerve to say that he "tells it like it is." As a keen observer of national and state politics, I can say with 100% confidence that people who rely on that phrase do not tell it anything near what it is and are, in fact, blowhards who like to hear themselves talk.

The latest example of Christie's flip-flop road show occurred this week on the issue of the Common Core educational standards. Two years ago, the governor was all for the national standards and agreed with President Obama that the country would be better off with benchmarks on which all states could be evaluated. He even said that this issue should not be politicized.

Clearly, things have changed. Last week in Iowa, he said,

"I have grave concerns about the way this has been done, especially the way the Obama administration has tried to implement it through tying federal funding to these things. And that changes the entire nature of it, from what was initially supposed to be voluntary type system and states could decide on their own to now having federal money tied to it in ways that really, really give me grave concerns.
"So we're in the midst of re-examination of it in New Jersey....It is something I'm very concerned about, because in the end education needs to be a local issue."

Yes, he even used the word "grave" twice. This is a man who is definitely running for president.

The problem is that he is mistrusted among the conservatives who will decide two of the first three Republican popularity tests, Iowa and South Carolina, and is mistrusted in New Hampshire, the third test, because he has no record to run on. In fact, he's running fourth among the early names being bandied about for the GOP nod, which wouldn't be terrible, except that two of the four ahead of him, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, are competing for the same voters as Christie is. He's going to have to muscle past those two, and they don't have the scandals and YouTube rantings that he does. I would never count Christie out, but pandering to the right is not the road that "tell it like it is" Chris wants to navigate.

This also comes on the heels of a poll in New Jersey that shows the governor's popularity and approval ratings at their four year lows. That's not the political environment in which you'd like to start a national run, but that's what the man has done since being reelected rather emphatically in November 2013. For a politician who says he knows how to safeguard public money, he sure has spent and wasted a great deal of political capital.

If Christie really wanted to reverse himself, I'd rather it be that he decides next week to build the third rail tunnel under the Hudson River. Or by fully funding public education. Those would definitely show that he knows how to tell it like it is. I'm not holding my breath, though.

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