Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Chris Christie Conundrum

Being a resident of New Jersey can be really confusing sometimes.

You got Giants fans in the north and Eagles fans in the south (I'm a Washington fan) and a mostly-absent Cowboys fan-governor like Chris Christie whose insatiable desire to placate his conservative critics seems to come at the price of serving the constituents that he was elected to serve.

Now it doesn't take a seasoned political expert to see that Christie's presidential ambitions for 2016 are pretty much done.

Earlier this afternoon I was watching CNN's Jake Tapper doing a political roundup segment showing the latest results from a new CNN/ORC poll of the leading 10 Republican presidential candidates.

Donald Trump currently leads the field by double digits at 24% (which pretty much tells you all you need to know about the Republican party...) followed by Jeb Bush with 11%, Ben Carson at 9%, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker tied at 8%, Rand Paul at 6%, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina and John Kaisch all tied at 5% and Mike Huckabee at 4%.

Christie isn't even in the top ten. His image wasn't even on the fancy interactive digital screen with the candidate's faces and their poll numbers; you know that thing CNN's John King loves to play with?

Worse, Christie's name wasn't even brought up.

No disrespect to Christie, but I don't think you can really serve two masters in the national political arena and expect to succeed on both fronts.

Politically speaking if you're the governor of a state like New Jersey, New York, California, Texas, Florida, Ohio, Massachusetts or Pennsylvania, it's pretty much a "national" position that can serve as a launchpad to the White House - if you're focused and IF have your political shit together.

Christie seems to have neither at this point.

With an unsolved pension reform mess, stagnant job growth, flat wages, the Bridge Gate scandal still unresolved, truckloads of pissed-off NJ homeowners who're still waiting for federal relief funds for homes damaged by Superstorm Sandy on his plate, Christie has enough to deal with here in the Garden State.

And being out of the state more than 220 days this year isn't going to solve any of those issue any faster,

Say what you want about former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, but even she was able to recognize that it wouldn't be fair to her constituents to serve as governor AND give 100% to a national presidential campaign - so she resigned.

It ended up hurting her politically but at least she faced up to it.

Christie doesn't seem able to do that and I'm not sure an unpopular governor with plunging approval numbers in his own economically-stagnant state can really make a case for the Republican nomination; especially with a closet full of Bridge Gate skeletons waiting to tumble out.

Look at the image up at the top of this post, I didn't just pick that image to pick on Christie, that's taken from a July 5th open post by the Monmouth Watchdog on New Jersey's Marlboro-Coltsneck Patch calling on Chris Christie to resign as governor - the opening sentence pretty much sums up what many New Jersey residents think of Christie:

"We face big problems in this state. Our credit rating is a disaster. Our unemployment rate is high. Our economic growth is slow. Our infrastructure is crumbling. Our pensions are in crisis. Our schools are underfunded. And now our governor has abandoned the job  to campaign for the job he really wants."

So what does Christie do in the face of his not-even-mentioned-on-CNN low single percentage in the presidential and plummeting popularity in his own state? Wait for it...wait for it.....

Anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist has Christie on board
Last Tuesday August 11th he announces he's signing fringe anti-tax anti-government zealot Grover Norquist's diabolically stupid "Tax Payer Protection Pledge" to never raise taxes if elected president!

What happened to Christie? Did someone force-feed him the Kool-Aid?

Have you seen the other Republican governors who've followed Norquist into the abyss of fiscal reason and signed onto the TPP? 

How about Kansas Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas and Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana?

Both of these ideological bubble-heads have driven their respective state's tax revenue-starved economies to the brink of insolvency, now Christie thinks that's a good idea for a presidential candidate?

Grover Norquist certainly does, as an August 12th article on NJ.com quoted him as saying after Christie signed the TPP:  

"By signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge to the American people, Governor Christie continues his commitment to protect American taxpayers," said Grover Norquist, president of Americans For Tax Reform. "Governor Christie understands that government should be reformed so that it takes and spends less of the taxpayer's money," he said. "(He) will oppose tax increases that paper over and continue failures of the past."

Now I truly wish I could've been a fly on the wall at the meeting that took place this morning at NJ Senator Corey Booker's office in Newark as the Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, NJ Senator Robert Menendez and Governor Christie sat down to hammer out a way to get a new Hudson River rail tunnel project off the ground. (New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was a no-show)

If you want a pretty good recap on this sudden about face (or should we say save face...) for Governor Christie, check out this segment from this morning's Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC with NJ Spotlight reporter Meir Linde and Jessica Gould of WNYC.

According to a New York Times recap of the meeting by Emma Fitzsimmons, the group claimed it was a productive meeting and said in a joint statement:

“The State of New Jersey supports the Gateway Project and is committed to developing a framework with the federal government to begin it,” the statement said. “We all recognize that the only way forward is equitable distribution of funding responsibility and the active participation of all parties.”

By "active participation of all parties" I'm guessing that's a nice way of saying "Andrew Cuomo better get his ass to the next meeting" but the operative phrase there is "equitable distribution of funding responsibility".

That means New Jersey has to kick in it's fair share to this project and despite Grover Norquist's meaningless, non-specific anti-tax rhetoric, this tunnel project IS in the interest of ALL tax payers; so even though we already pay some of the highest taxes in American, folks in New Jersey are going to have to pony up to get this thing built.

I'm willing to do that, I don't like the idea of paying more taxes but the tunnel is necessary.

As I blogged about back on July 26th, the federal government has already committed funds to the project, we know what's going to happen if the project isn't started ASAP and the current North River Tunnels aren't going to just stop deteriorating anytime soon.

The only question seems to be if Governor Christie can put the needs of millions of transit riders and the future of effective mass transit along the northeastern rail corridor ahead of his dwindling presidential ambitions. Which one will he attach his name and legacy to?

Therein lies the conundrum.


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