“You know, Tom, you must be the thinnest-skinned guy in America. If you think that’s a confrontational tone, you should really see me when I’m pissed.”
Thus began a viral video last week when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie teed off on a local columnist for daring to ask whether his “confrontational tone” toward the Democratic state legislature would help pass his latest fiscal proposals. Christie rocked on his heels and let out a long, annoyed sigh in the form of a two and a half minute soliloquy.
“I love when people say they don’t want to have argument; that’s what we were sent here for…. They believe in bigger government, higher taxes and more spending,” the Republican said of Trenton Democrats. He said that he believed in the opposite and “that may lead to a disagreement or two.”
“Now, I can say it really nicely. I can say it in a way you all may be more comfortable with… but the fact of the matter is: this is who I am, and this is who the people elected.”
In the background, a chubby yes-man turned beet red, shaking with titters. He wasn’t the only one. The right embraced the rant with open arms. On his radio program, Glenn Beck said Christie “may be George Washington.” A diary at Red State suggested Churchill. Cable news linked the moment to the Tea Party fad — that Christie’s speech is the latest manifestation of ANGRY! VOTER! that’s plaguing both parties.
Gov. Christie’s straight talk ends at the Republican Party line. He’s brought no “common sense” to the statehouse, for he seeks no common ground. The question-asking columnist, Tom Moran, was right: Christie’s confrontational tone has increased the sense of partisanship in what could have been a pliable Democratic legislature, led this year by a new, conservative-minded state Senate president and a very green Assembly speaker.
“Listen, everybody plays to their part,” Christie said in the video, wondering why Democrats aren’t slapped with the same combative label. “[T]hey won’t even hold a hearing on an enormously qualified Supreme Court nominee.”
That’s because earlier this month, the Governor broke sixty years of bipartisan precedent by not granting tenure to a state Supreme Court justice. The reason had nothing to do with professional negligence or personal misconduct, but because the man was appointed by a Democrat. Instead, Christie chose a Republican lawyer with a generous record of campaign donations.
As the Star-Ledger noted in an editorial this weekend, this is not what the authors of the 1947 New Jersey state Constitution had intended. They inserted a tenure clause for the third branch to ensure that justices would show their fitness to serve, not their allegiances to parties. “The delegates speculated that some future governor might abuse this power to shape the court’s ideology, but the concern was dismissed as unfounded. They apparently didn’t foresee the rise of unrestrained partisanship.” Even Christie’s political icon, former Gov. Tom Kean, Sr., has come out against the power-grab.
As much as one may disagree — and I’m one who disagrees with replacing a sitting judge — two wrongs don’t make a right.
— Tom Kean, Sr.
What makes this battle so unnecessary is that the Democratic justice would have reached the mandatory retirement age in twenty-two months, when Christie will still be governor and apt to get a hearing for his nominee. But playing his partisan part wouldn’t let him do that, and so the Senate Democrats will not let the nomination go forward to make a point.
So while the notion is that Christie is an example of the mad-as-hell Tea Party rant-haver, consider that he is just another politician, insulted and pouting that even after winning 48.5 percent of the vote, his partisan power-plays can be infringed upon by pesky details like that his political opponents still have a say in things. See it that way and know that this is less a video of someone putting his foot down on political games, and more of someone stamping his feet in a partisan temper tantrum.