New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is the embodiment of today's Republican Party and everything it has come to represent. You name it, Christie's got it: Disingenuous, smug, nasty? Check. Robotic servant of the corporate class, foisting its lobbyists' prefabricated laws on an unsuspecting public? Check. Hostile toward women? Double-check.
And last night he proved his bona fides as a Republican by proving he meets his party's other criterion, which is an absolute contempt toward the ordinary men and women who have been victimized by its policies. The night before the nation received its latest bad news on unemployment, Christie told a cheering Republican crowd that the nation's jobless were lazy examples of an entitlement mentality.
Needless to say, Chris Christie is now considered a leading Vice Presidential contender.
Christie's blunt style seemed refreshing at first. Hey, I kinda liked the guy myself.
But "blunt" became "ugly" very quickly: Telling union officials to "cut the crap." Shouting down a right-wing millionaire who asked a blunt question at a Meg Whitman rally. Insulting a nonpartisan state agency for reaching a conclusion he didn't like. Rudely blowing off a constituent during a televised question-and-answer session. Telling Warren Buffett to "just write a check and shut up."
His behavior quickly left the bounds of "refreshing" and ventured into "jerk" territory.
Christie's bullying style was best illustrated when he insulted and abused another constituent when he asked a perfectly reasonable question about taxes. He demanded that a state trooper bring the man onstage, berated him at length, and then ordered him expelled from the room.
During another meeting he called a law student an "idiot" and told him to "shut up" before having the student, a former Navy SEAL, forcibly removed from the building. (Part of Christie's intimidation style includes hauling people onstage for a "conversation" -- and then not letting them speak.)
Between 71 and 86 percent of New Jersey respondents told pollsters that the words "arrogant," "stubborn," "self-centered" and "bully" either describe him "very well" or "somewhat well."
As an editorial in the Newark Star-Ledger put it, "It doesn't matter who you are -- school superintendent, teacher, student, U.S. senator, state Assembly leader, former education commissioner or just a regular guy trying to have a conversation: If you disagree with him, Christie will try to humiliate you publicly."
If Chris Christie was a movie the MPAA would rate him "R."
And as for Christie's attitude toward women, there's this: First he told reporters that someone should "take a bat" to a 76-year-old widow, a state legislator who had the temerity to say she thought he had acted hypocritically.
And then there was this, after a female constituent asked a pointed question about "jobs going down." Christie shouted back "You know something may be going down tonight but it ain't gonna be jobs, sweetheart."
Like we were saying: Jerk.
His party has a woman problem, and so does Chris Christie.
Even his foul mouth isn't an anomaly, despite his party's claim to greater personal propriety,when you consider Richard Nixon's serial profanities on the White House tapes, Dick Cheney's infamous "f**k yourself" to Sen. Patrick Leahy on the Senate floor, or even Saint Santorum's recent "bulls**t" tirade against a reporter.
(Sure, everybody swears -- but only one party claims the mantle of religious self-righteousness.)
Chris Christie isn't the Republican Party's "bad boy." He's its Id. He expresses the emotions they all feel but which most of them are too judicious to say out loud. That's clear by the way the party has embraced him.
And underneath all the bluster about being "my own man," Christie's a cookie-cutter GOP politician who operates straight out of his party's corporate playbook. Like Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Chris Christie is a rubber-stamp for the anti-middle class, anti-democratic, and anti-democratic prefabricated bills cranked out by ALEC, the organization funded by the Koch Brothers and other major corporations.
From a comprehensive Star-Ledger report by reporter Salvador Rizzo:
"Drawing on bills crafted by the council, on New Jersey legislation and dozens of emails by Christie staffers and others, The Star-Ledger found a pattern of similarities... At least three bills, one executive order and one agency rule accomplish the same goals set out by ALEC using the same specific policies. In eight passages contained in those documents, New Jersey initiatives and ALEC proposals line up almost word for word. Two other Republican bills not pushed by the governor's office are nearly identical to ALEC models."
Rizzo wrote that "critics say New Jersey officials are handing off a cardinal duty -- do your own work -- to a national group with unique ties to the business world." Characteristically, Christie's office responded with a lie and a flippant remark: ""Our reforms have no basis in anyone's model legislation," (Christie's spokesman) said. "The governor said to me, 'Who's ALEC?'"
Un-characteristically, the Big Talker had nothing to say. Rizzo's article includes this sentence: "Christie declined to comment for this story."
Aw, c'mon, Governor! Let's have a conversation!
Christie's ALEC bills and regulations were drawn from Corporate America's anti-education and anti-environment playbooks. Can anyone doubt that the other items on the ALEC agenda -- include the now-notorious "stand your ground" laws and others that would disenfranchise minorities -- are on his list too?
Christie's a cookie-cutter Republican when it comes to taxes, too. Not only has he cut taxes for the wealthy, but he's given away $1.57 billion in corporate tax breaks -- supposedly in return for jobs. Yet New Jersey has only recovered 20 percent of the jobs it lost during the financial crisis -- a crisis caused by Christie-like deregulation -- and there's very little evidence that more than a few of those jobs came from Christie's tax breaks.
Just across the river, New York has recovered 80 percent of its lost jobs. Way to go, Chris Christie!
Shame America First
Whether we're talking politics or what passes for ethics, Chris Christie is the embodiment of his party's values. So it was no surprise to hear him express those values so bluntly last night in a speech to something called the "George W. Bush Institute" at a conference on the nonsensical voodoo notion that cutting taxes will lead to "4 percent growth." (You mean, like it did before 2008?)Christie began by praising former President George W. Bush: ""Mr. President, thank you for setting that example, thank you for inspiring a whole new generation of conservative Republican leaders who you helped create." Then he said this:
"I've never seen a less optimistic time in my lifetime in this country. People wonder why, I think it's because government is now telling them to stop dreaming, to stop striving, (saying) we'll take care of you. We're turning into a paternalistic entitlement society. That will not just bankrupt us financially, it will bankrupt us morally."
Call 'em the "Shame America First" crowd. The GOP heavyweights in attendance enthusiastically agreed that ordinary Americans, not they or their patrons, were to blame for what's wrong with this country. Christie then added:
Republicans: They'll steal your wallet, then lecture you on the immorality of walking around without cash in your pocket.
"When the American people no longer believe that this is a place where only their willingness to work hard and to act with honor and integrity and ingenuity determines their success in life, then we'll have a bunch of people sitting on a couch waiting for their next government check."
Meanwhile, back on planet Earth...
Meanwhile unemployment claims jumped last week, underscoring the bad news in March's job numbers and the urgency of more Federal assistance to combat unemployment.
The ranks of today's unemployed include record-high percentages of young people, aging workers, long-term unemployed, minority workers, and others -- and they're especially high in New Jersey, a state that is performing more poorly than the rest of the country under Christie's leadership. But Christie didn't offer a message of support or an oath to support them and work to grow our economy.
No, Christie offered a different message to the unemployed: It's your fault. You're just a bunch of lazy couch potatoes who think you're "entitled" -- entitled to the job you're not being offered, entitled to the unemployment insurance that's running out, entitled to the cuts in Medicare and Social Security we have planned for you. You're entitled entitled entitled ...
GOP to America: Drop Dead
Christie's message -- the Republican message -- is that you're the problem. You stopped dreaming or striving. The unemployed factory worker who's applied to three jobs a day until there was nowhere else to apply has stopped dreaming. The unemployed single mom who can't find a job, and can't move elsewhere in search of work because she's underwater on her house, has stopped striving. The Trenton warehouse worker who's been turned away from job after job because he's too "old" at 45 is "sitting on a couch waiting for his next government check."
What about the people who fund Chris Christie and his party, the lawbreaking bankers and environment despoilers? Apparently they displayed their "hard work and honor and ingenuity" by gambling with our mortgages and being bailed out by our tax money.
Take a look at Chris Christie. Take a good look. He's not just a member of the Republican Party. He is the Republican Party. Mitt Romney may be more courteous and civil, but if you pull off his mask you'll see Chris Christie's face. And whenever the Republican Party "cuts the crap" and reveals itself, that's the face you'll see -- that of a selfish, arrogant, heartless lackey for corporate greed and personal excess.
Ya wanna have a "conversation" with us, Mr. Governor? Anytime.We're not hard to find. You can find us on the unemployment lines. Or working two jobs for wages that never go up. Or paying an inflated mortgage every month because the bank's corrupt appraiser overstated our mortgage. Or struggling with breathing difficulties because environmental rules were "relaxed" to let a polluter move into our neighborhood.
Feel free to grab some of your rich Republican pals and walk up to anyone of us. Just interrupt whatever we're doing so you can explain to us why the problems we're having are our fault and not yours. Feel free to tell us that it's our laziness and moral laxity that cost us our jobs, and not your greed and mendacity. Go right ahead.
You'll find yourselves in a conversation, all right -- a conversation about you.
Richard (RJ) Eskow, a consultant and writer (and former insurance/finance executive), is a Senior Fellow with the Campaign for America's Future and the host of The Breakdown, broadcast Saturdays nights from 7-9 pm on WeAct Radio, AM 1480 in Washington DC.