New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's recent remarks regarding the Hurricane Sandy relief package has sent some ripples through the Republican Party. Specifically, some of the more conservative voices have expressed reservations about his "conservative credentials" and the possibility of a 2016 Presidential run. First and foremost, Christie is the sitting Governor of New Jersey who has stated his clear intent to run for another term in 2013. Living in New Jersey and reading the New Jersey newspapers and all the New Jersey political websites and news programs, Chris Christie has one singular goal in 2013- winning another term. What he started in New Jersey is not yet completed. The fact is that fiscally, there are still problems and still budget battles. There is still a Democratic controlled legislature to deal with and a liberal, obstinate state supreme court hovering over the entire process.
Overlooked in many of these recent comments and criticisms is a very important fact. Hurricane Sandy took a huge toll on the state's infrastructure, housing and economy. While some conservative Republicans take umbrage with a $60 billion federal aid package targeted for one of the wealthier sections of the country, they should be reminded that this "wealthier section of the country" likewise helped a less wealthy section of the country during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, any number of California earthquakes or floods along the Mississippi River not to mention the ever-present tornadoes that seem to rage through trailer park communities in the south and farms in the Midwest. Furthermore, New Jersey ranks near the top of the list when it comes to the disproportionate amounts of taxes paid into the US Treasury versus the benefits the state receives from that treasury. Excuse me- New Jersey ranks #1 which is not near the top; it is THE top. In money terms, New Jersey receives 61 cents for every dollar paid in taxes. Thirty-two states receive more than what they contribute. Of these 32 states, 23 are "conservative" states ostensibly represented by conservative legislators. If "conservative" legislators from these states are the ones grating at this fact, they should be well-reminded that it is New Jersey's largesse that is of disproportionate advantage to them every single day of every single year, not just at the time of a natural disaster. If a $60 billion package whose sum is not totally dedicated to the state and whose sum in no way addresses the true costs involved here sort of equalizes that equation, then so be it. Personally, over the years I do not believe that $60 billion even begins to equalize the disparity, but I'll take it. What I won't take, however, is when a state like New Jersey or New York is ravaged by a natural disaster and in need of federal aid and has that package saddled with provisions to help Alaskan fisheries or Mississippi catfish farmers. Specifically, what the hell was the effect of Hurricane Sandy on Mississippi, Alaska, or even the pre-existing damage on the roof of a NASA museum? Besides the Christie rant against delaying a vote on this bill, perhaps he was also upset with that Washington tendency to add all sorts of goodies to these bills to help, quite frankly, so-called conservative states.
Of course, a lot of this criticism goes back to Christie's comments about Obama's response to Hurricane Sandy. Despite many making statements to the contrary, there is still that underlying belief that Christie's praise of Obama in the storm's aftermath somehow caused Romney to lose, or was at least a contributing factor. Romney did not lose because of Christie! He lost on his own, plain and simple. As for Christie's actions then, he was doing what any Governor would have done whether Obama or Bush was in the White House and regardless of whether that Governor was Republican or Democrat. Have we sunk so low that we now criticize a Governor for doing the job for which they were elected? Do we expect Christie to ignore the devastation in his state out of political expediency in order to conform to someone's definition of "conservative?"
Likewise, Christie's recent statements regarding armed guards in schools, as suggested by the National Rifle Association, have grated on the nerves of some conservatives. However, I was unaware that in order to claim the title of "conservative," one must walk lockstep with every suggestion by the National Rifle Association. I, like Christie, must have missed that memo. As a Governor who also happens to be a former federal prosecutor and a damn good one, maybe we should be looking TO Christie for solutions, not criticizing him for a comment he made in reaction to an NRA suggestion. It should also be noted that he did not dismiss the idea of armed security guards in schools out of hand. But alas, not a total embrace of an NRA suggestion, therefore not "conservative enough."
Some have suggested that this latest Christie outburst was the result of political reality. Specifically, they note that Christie would lose any chance in 2016 if he lost in 2013. Therefore, the theory goes, Christie needs to win reelection as Governor in order to even entertain a 2016 presidential run. They ignore one very important fact. It is a fact that even his opponents and detractors give him credit for: he means what he says. Thus, when Christie says he has not even considered a 2016 run, he REALLY has not considered a 2016 run.
There are some other instances where Christie has allegedly drawn the ire of conservatives. Stating that he does not want to "demagogue" the issue of immigration is one example. Criticizing him for this statement is tacit approval of "demagoguery." Furthermore, his denunciation of some inflammatory anti-Moslem sentiments have conservatives raising their eyebrows about his "credentials." So, are anti-Moslem sentiments now a pillar of true conservatism? Again, must have missed the memo on that one also.
In previous postings, I have written glowingly of Chris Christie as Governor of New Jersey. I voted for him over Jon ("hundreds of billions? what hundreds of billions?") Corzine the first time out and I intend to vote for him again in 2013 even if the NRA, Club for Growth, American Conservative Union, Rush Limbaugh, the Wall Street Journal, and William Kristol all supported someone else. The fact is that Chris Christie is the perfect Republican Governor for a state like New Jersey and despite his alleged "embrace of Obama" or his rant against John Boehner and the House of Representatives, I would not want anyone else fighting for New Jersey than Chris Christie. Conversely, I have also stated in the past and I currently stand by that assessment today that although Christie is the perfect person to be the Governor of New Jersey, he may not be the perfect Republican to occupy the White House or even run on the GOP ticket.
As for those alleged conservative credentials, instead of listening to the NRA or William Kristol or Rupert Murdoch, maybe someone should talk to the fine folks at the NJEA (the largest state teacher's union), AFSCME and the CWA and see what they think of Christie. Their visceral hatred of him alone should quell those reservations of his "conservative credentials."
Here is the irony of this whole "much ado about nothing" criticism. New York Representative Peter King basically said the same thing that Christie said, maybe more forcefully than Christie AND as an insider to the negotiations over this bill. Yet, no one is calling him out on the carpet of the pages of the Weekly Standard or the Wall Street Journal. The only difference is that Peter King has no alleged presidential aspirations. The bigger irony is that neither may Christie.