This is commentary from political blogger and cartoonist Rob Tornoe.
I was having dinner with a liberal friend of mine last week, and the subject of Chris Christie came up. Immediately, my friend entered into a tirade about a media conspiracy to portray Christie as a moderate when he’s really nothing more than a crazy, right-wing conservative ready to strip women of their rights and convert everyone to Christianity.
I just don’t buy it.
Don’t mistake my misapprehension of labeling Christie a right-winger as support for the governor or many of his policies. If Jon Corzine was Mr. Magoo, than Christie is Foghorn Leghorn—big, brash, always running his mouth, but with little to actually show for it.
We also know that “do as I say” Jersey persona is a phony act that would make most Shakespearean actors blush. His legislative style has actually been marked by overtures to the right and left, usually followed by reaching some type of middle ground with the two. Remind you of anyone?
“I’m in this business to win,” Christie proclaimed to Republican National Committee members in Boston last week in a closed-door session that magically managed to become public. “For ideas to matter, we have to win, because if we don’t win, we don’t govern. And if we don’t govern, all we do is shout in the wind.” I’m surprised it wasn’t posted on YouTube.
Winning trumps ideology? That doesn’t sound like someone three shades away from flying a Tea Party flag atop the statehouse. No, that sounds like Bill Clinton.
Obviously, Clinton leaned left while Christie leans right, so don’t email me with complaints that Clinton would have never vetoed tax increases on millionaires or pulled out of the greenhouse gas initiative.
Today’s divisive political landscape is much different than what Clinton faced in his time. But aside from a handful of right-wing toss-outs to the hardcore base, if you simply look back at many of the choices Christie faced and asked yourself, “What would Bill Clinton do?” you’ll see he’s nothing more than a pragmatic politician willing to abandon core values to win.
Nowhere is Christie’s high-priced, Clinton-like ego more apparent than in the endless replaying of “Stronger than the Storm” commercials, intended to bring business to the Sandy-recovered Shore but instead play like a series of campaign ads intended to get Christie re-elected.
A couple of weeks ago, the Asbury Park Press reported the company responsible for the “Stronger than the Storm” ads come in with the most expensive bid, nearly $2 million more than the next potential agency. Wouldn’t a right-wing conservative have instinctively gone with the lesser bid, then proclaimed how much money he was saving the taxpayers? Christie must have seen the opportunity not only to get his face on ads in the state during an election year (and remind voters, yet again, how great he was post-Sandy) but to also give him exposure nationally as he mulls a 2016 presidential run. All on the backs of the very Shore residents he proclaimed to defend and made him popular in the first place.
While this means he’s not a right-winger, it does mean he cares more about his own popularity (also a vice of Clinton) than bringing business to the Shore. While many Shore business owners are reporting lots of people roaming the boardwalk, it’s not necessarily translating to sales. Jersey shore restaurants say they’re down as much as 40 percent from the business they saw last summer, according to a recent report on NJTV.
If he really cared about helping out Shore towns, why not… I don’t know… actually promote them! “Seaside Heights is stronger than the storm” seems like a much more direct way to get tourists interested in going to Seaside Heights than seeing Christie hanging out on the beach in a pink button-down
If anyone doubts my Christie-as-Bill-Clinton theory, on Friday Christie gave his conditional approval to a bill that would allow kids to have edible medical marijuana prescribed to them. Does this sound like something a right-winger would do? True, he also vetoed a ban on .50-caliber rifles, but in order for Christie to survive as a national Republican, he has to bring out the chum bucket occasionally to satisfy the base, just as Clinton did for liberals.
He also dropped those bombs on a Friday afternoon in the summer, keenly aware they wouldn’t garner the media attention they deserved. I wonder who else might have done something similar…____________________________________________________________
Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at RobTornoe.com, and follow him on twitter @RobTornoe.