Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Ideology Over Principled Leadership

Well my favorite Republican governor was back in the news today, and as has been the case in recent months, that wasn't really a good thing.

For him or the people of New Jersey.

Chris Christie's reputation is now inextricably linked with three different toxic issues that aren't going away anytime soon.

1) The Bridgegate scandal he engineered back in 2013 is about to come back and roost in his life like a vicious vindictive chicken.

2) The critical Transportation Trust Fund that keeps vital infrastructure projects (things like roads and bridges...) in New Jersey financed is now out of money due in large part to Christie's stubborn refusal to budge on his disturbing obsession with cutting taxes - even when it's not in the state's fiscal interest.

3) He's hitched his wagon and political legacy to Donald Trump.

Let's take a quick look at Bridgegate first.

It was just last week when the transcript of a text message between former Christie aide Christina Renna and Pete Sheridan (a former Christie re-election adviser who's currently one of the top officials in New Jersey's Republican party) offered damning proof that not only did Christie and his top officials know about Bridgegate, but that Christie himself lied in a 2013 press conference in which he claimed neither he or his staff were aware of the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge.

Former Port Authority official Bill Baroni
Those transcripts were submitted by lawyers for Bill Baroni, the disgraced former deputy executive director of the Port Authority for New York and New Jersey.

Remember him? Back in 2013 he was the guy who told an investigative committee of the NJ legislature while under subpoena that the lane closures were part of "a traffic study."

He'll be in federal court next month to face charges that he used his position at the Port Authority to engineer the lane closures.

It's a pretty good bet that nothing good for Christie is going to come out of that trial as Baroni and his lawyers try to salvage what's left of his shredded reputation by selling Christie up the river.

Oh and Baroni won't be alone in court starting September 12th, Bridget Anne Kelly, the former deputy chief of staff to Christie and author of the now famous "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" text message to ex-Christie adviser David Wildstein, will be there as well facing seven counts including conspiracy to commit wire fraud and deprivation of civil rights.

The trial starts about ten days from when early voting for the 2016 presidential election begins in some states, so the fallout and details from that highly-anticipated trial are going to put a real crimp in Christie's style as Donald Trump struggles to try and right his sinking presidential campaign.

Stephen Bannon
Christie is heading up Trump's White House transition team, but I'm not sure whether he had anything to do with Trump's decision to name the combative hyper-conservative Breitbart News executive  Stephen Bannon to replace Paul Manafort as the new head of Trump's presidential campaign.

Bannon is known less as a "journalist" than as a peddler of quasi-delusional paranoid theories that feed Tea Party insanity who helped bring an even more racist and misogynist tone to Brietbart.

Thought Trump's campaign was a trainwreck before?

Just wait a few days and see what a crass bigot like Bannon who fawns over Sarah Palin and has no experience running a political campaign brings to Trump's rapidly fading presidential hopes; and in turn, Christie's political ambitions.

But probably the saddest aspect of Christie's political and professional devolution is something all too familiar to folks in New Jersey - his consistent unwillingness to put the needs of the people of the state ahead of his own political self interest and his increasingly narrow-minded ideology.

Today's troubling New York Times story about how Christie helped Trump weasel out of paying about $25 million in back taxes owed from the bankruptcies of Trump's failed Atlantic City casinos is just the latest of many examples.

Remember back in March when Christie pushed aside the will of the NJ Attorney General and undercut years of costly litigation efforts to force Exxon to cover cleanup costs related to the pollution of the Arthur Kill and Newark Bay in Bayonne, NJ by revising an $8.9 billion settlement with Exxon and agreeing to accept a paltry $250 million or about 3 cents on the dollar?

The people of New Jersey are once again loosing out with the toxic stalemate over funding of the state's Transportation Trust Fund. Despite years of warnings that the critical source of funding for essential road and bridge repairs would run out of money, last July Christie shut down $3.5 billion slated for hundreds of different projects across the state in order to save what's left in the TTF for emergencies.

Eighth street bridge reconstruction in Passaic - Stalled
Both Republicans and Democratic state Assembly members reached a bipartisan measure to fund the TFF by increasing the state's gas tax by 23 cents a gallon - a measure supported by most people in NJ especially since the gas tax hasn't been raised since 1988 when it was raised by 2.5 cents a gallon.

Can you name a single product that you consume regularly that hasn't gone up in price since 1988?

True to Christie's bizarre allegiance to anti-government conservative tax-cut zealot Grover Norquist's "No new taxes. Ever" pledge signed by hundreds of fiscally-delusional Republican politicians, the Governor would only agree to pass the gas tax increase if the NJ Senate also passed tax cuts.

When revised figures showed that Christie's proposed sales tax cut, plus a retirement income tax exclusion he threw in would actually cost the state $1.9 billion in revenue by 2022, the Senate refused to pass the bill - if Christie would just take out his demand for a retirement income tax exclusion (a tax cut that would overwhelmingly benefit wealthier New Jerseyeans) the bill would pass.

But of course he won't, so hundreds of critical road and bridge repairs across the state sit idle and construction workers and contractors are stuck with no paycheck during the busiest construction period of the year - driving up unemployment rates and pumping less money into the economy.

Work like asphalt paving, which can't be done in cold weather, and costs to restart the projects grow by the day, but Christie is content to blame the Democratic-majority state Senate and use his authority not to get these critical projects funded, but to pander to the fringe ideology of conservative anti-tax zealots in the Republican party - most of whom don't even live in New Jersey.

Again, as I've said many times, I've got nothing personal against Christ Christie; but it's always about him, not the best interests of the people.

I'm just really tired of naked self-interest and rigid, narrow-minded political ideology that's not reflective of the vast majority of New Jersey's citizens masquerading as principled leadership.

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