It’s not good for New Jersey to have a bar that celebrates the moment when a large intoxicated man punched out a petite young lady over a stolen drink. But stop by The Beachcomber in Seaside Heights and maybe you’ll get to sit in “Snooki’s Chair,” the very perch from which the MTV‘s Jersey Shore starlet was knocked. And don’t worry if the seat’s taken: you can still order a “Snooki Punch,” which swishes rum, melon liquor, pineapple juice and cream into a cocktail that no one would dare fight over.
Stuff like this hurts New Jersey’s image because we can’t help but talk about it. Then there are the things that don’t get mentioned but actually hurt real live New Jerseyans. Like when late on a Friday, the state’s own governor knocks out tens of thousands of women, only to step over them on his way to Washington and New York to appear on national TV shows. Once there, he and major media personalities act like those women don’t even exist, choosing instead to laugh it up about the antics of the punched-out New Yorker and her suntanned crew.
To the wider television-viewing audience—the same cross-section of America that laps up episodes of Jersey Shore—Chris Christie is ‘The Kim Kardashian of Republican Governors.’ He’s appeared on three national talk shows in the last week. They invite him on because he’s in close proximity to the East Coast media hubs and because he’s got buzz. Christie’s turned himself into a capital ‘S’ Situation: a blue state Republican who stands on principle and wins accolades.
On NBC’s The Today Show, Matt Lauer rattled off some recent press clippings: ‘The Nation’s Most Interesting Governor,’ ‘Governor Wrecking Ball,’ ‘Human Bulldozer,’ and ‘Chris Christie may look like Chris Farley, but in terms of conservative principles, he’s as sexy as Christie Brinkley.’
(Mind you that New Jerseyans rate Christie’s job performance as only so-so, with 44 percent who approve and 44 percent who disapprove. So while he’s not despised, he’s not rolling down the Turnpike to a ticker-tape parade, either.)
But the national talk show hosts take him at face value. They give him the beats and Christie is out there fist-pumpin’ like champs. The interview questions are essentially variations on, ‘You tell people the truth—what’s that like?’ Only Jake Tapper of ABC’s This Week attempted to match Christie’s rhetoric to his record, but his research was as thin as Vinny’s eyebrows. If Tapper knew about the eleventh hour cuts to women’s funding, he didn’t mention it.
Ah yes: the governor’s Snooki punch to the kisser of approximately 136,000 women last Friday.
Here’s how it happened: Some time ago, Christie cut $7.4 million in funding to the state’s 58 family-planning centers that provide care to under-insured and uninsured women. We’re talking about where they go for birth control and screenings for breast cancer, cervical cancer, HIV and STIs. (But not abortions.)
So the state legislature reacted. They understand there’s budget tightening going on, but they see this as a worthy investment to lower healthcare costs by preventing illnesses and unplanned pregnancies. Last week, they passed a bill that moved some money around and restored the funding. Then on Friday, Christie vetoed it.
136,000 women were on the floor like Snooki, except they’re not on MTV, so none of them were mentioned during his national TV appearances.
Christie claims that he made the veto for costs, yet state Senator Loretta Weinberg and Assemblywoman Linda Stender informed his office that they had found the alternative funding and invited the administration to present any questions they had. Christie never did. He just vetoed it.
That’s probably because he couldn’t defend his position beyond a vague platitude about cost-cutting. As Senator Frank Lautenberg noted, for every $1 million the state contributes to women’s health, a federal program will invest $9 million. That’s a 9-for-1 return that helps curb long-term health expenditures. (To put it in Jersey Shore terms: Yo dawg, real and opportunity costs for illnesses are MAD EXPENSIVE!) It would be stupider than The Situation’s dumbbells not to take that deal.
But Christie’s not stupid. It’s just that what he’s doing has nothing to do with the budget battles for which he is celebrated and more to do with his less attractive social conservatism. Meet Christie’s handpicked Republican state chairman, Assemblyman Jay Webber, who used a recent session to read aloud from a Planned Parenthood brochure to depict it as pornography. He seems to believe that stopping funds to these 136,000 women will help put an end to the scourge of teenage sex. If only Webber had said something about Jersey Shore—then maybe Morning Joe would put him on.
That’s the subject the American TV audience wants to hear about. “They say it’s New Jersey,” Christie told Matt Lauer. “It’s not New Jersey.”
No doubt. The governor proves that you can’t trust everything you hear about New Jersey on national television.