Just when the pool of 2016 Republican presidential candidates appeared to have reached its limit, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey is attempting to make a splash by entering the race today. Gov. Christie, however, has a history of questionable judgement and strikingly dishonest actions that should frighten American Jewish voters.
Seeking to win the nation’s approval for his presidency, Gov. Christie confronts growing dissatisfaction in his own state. In the past few years, Gov. Christie and his administration have fended off high-profile investigations under national media scrutiny, resulting in Gov. Christie devoting a considerable amount of time outside of the state. Democratic State Committee Chairman John Currie criticized Gov. Christie's prolonged absences:
"Chris Christie is not interested in being honest with us, in addressing the scandals he created, or, even, in doing his job," he said in a statement last week. "Instead, he is leaving New Jersey behind to take up residency in a state of denial."
Of course, Gov. Christie continues to be haunted by the shadow of the Bridgegate scandal. Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that Gov. Christie may have broken grand jury law. Kate Zernike reports:
The latest indication comes in a sworn statement by David Wildstein, a former Port Authority official and the admitted mastermind of the access-lane closings, that describes Mr. Christie breaking the law as he exercised a heavy hand over state politics from the front office.
Mr. Wildstein’s statement, in a civil case separate from the federal prosecution in the bridge case, offers the first insider confirmation of a long-rumored tale of New Jersey political corruption, and places Mr. Christie at the center of it. It also portrays the governor, a former United States attorney, casually revealing information about a grand jury proceeding he had overseen, which violates federal law.
Gov. Christie's blunders have caught up with him. The editor of the Newark Star-Ledger penned a column ahead of today's announcement, warning that Gov. Christie's propensity for lying goes far and above any politician he had previously dealt with. Tom Moran writes:
Don't misunderstand me. They all lie, and I get that. But Christie does it with such audacity, and such frequency, that he stands out.
He has a silver tongue. But if you look closely, you can see that it is forked like a serpent's.
He's been lying on steroids lately, on core issues like Bridgegate, guns and that cozy personal friendship with his buddy, the King of Jordan. I'll get to all that.
But let's start with my personal favorite. It dates back to the 2009 campaign, when the public workers unions asked him if he intended to cut their benefits.
He told them their pensions were "sacred" to him.
"The notion that I would eliminate, change, or alter your pension is not only a lie, but cannot be further from the truth," he wrote them. "Your pension and benefits will be protected when I am elected governor."
He then proceeded to make cutting those benefits the centerpiece of his first year in office.
This, we know now, was vintage Christie. Other lying politicians tend to waffle, to leave themselves some escape hatch. You can almost smell it.
But Christie lies with conviction. His hands don't shake, and his eyes don't wander. I can hardly blame the union leaders who met with him for believing him.
"He seemed very sincere," says Bill Lavin, head of the firefighters union. "Why doubt someone who tells you this is sacred to them?"
The New York Times' editorial board echoed this comments following Gov. Christie's announcement, sharply criticizing the governor's record of division and dishonesty. The editorial published today reads:
On his new website, Gov. Chris Christie portrays himself as a guy who gets attacked for “telling it like it is,” but that’s what his mom told him to do on her deathbed.
It is part of the legend Mr. Christie has carefully cultivated for many years, with startling success. He is described as “brash” and “bold,” with a certain rough charisma that his political opponents just cannot handle. “I get accused a lot of times of being too blunt and too direct and saying what’s on my mind just a little bit too loudly,” he says in the campaign video showing him with a selected group of adoring voters.
It’s fundamentally nonsense. There are lines between brash and belligerent, between open and obnoxious and, most important, between “telling it like it is” and not telling the truth. Mr. Christie crosses those lines all the time...
Sometimes, Mr. Christie poses as a reasonable person who can reach across party and ideological lines. During his first campaign for governor in 2009, he vowed that he would hold public employees’ pensions “sacred” and then made cutting those pensions a centerpiece of his new administration. Just three weeks ago, Mr. Christie bragged that his pension reforms had won a major court victory, when in fact the court ruled them unconstitutional.
Sometimes, Mr. Christie wants to make himself a strong, reliable right-winger. He told an anti-gun-control crowd in South Carolina in June, for example, that all of New Jersey’s gun laws preceded his tenure and “no new ones have been made since I’ve been governor.” Actually, he signed three major pieces of gun control legislation.
Mr. Christie presents himself as a paragon of political virtue, but he seems to have fabricated a personal friendship with King Abdullah of Jordan to justify accepting about $30,000 in gifts from the monarch. And there is, of course, the infamous “Bridgegate” scandal, in which close aides and political appointees of Mr. Christie paralyzed traffic at the George Washington Bridge to punish a local politician for failing to endorse the governor’s re-election.
Two of those officials have been indicted, and one has pleaded guilty. Mr. Christie may be safely walled off from being accused of orchestrating that mess, but he is responsible at the very least for creating the atmosphere that led his aides to conclude that such conduct on his behalf was appropriate...
Expect to see a lot of Mr. Christie at those phony “town hall” meetings, stage with selected supporters. You will hear a lot about his common touch, his “straight talk” and his love for Bruce Springsteen.
It’s a smoke screen. Look behind it at the governor whose own constituents say by an overwhelming majority that he has done a bad job, should not run for the White House and would make a bad president.
According to recent polls, Gov. Christie has merely garnered a 30 percent approval rate. Perhaps, given such low support, his history of scandal and his severely tarnished reputation, Gov. Christie should fuhgeddaboud the presidency.