This is commentary from political blogger and cartoonist Rob Tornoe.
And the Academy Award for best actor in a leading performance goes to… Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey.
Still think Christie is that refreshing, say-what’s-on-his-mind politician? Just re-watch Christie’s press conference announcing a special election to fill the seat of the late Senator Frank Lautenberg to see a modern day Wizard of Oz, revealed to be nothing more than a self-serving, calculating politician doing what’s best for himself.
“It’s important for the people of New Jersey to have a voice and a choice,” Christie said with a straight face Tuesday. The special election will take place in two parts – a primary on Aug 13, then a general election on October 16, not on November 5, when the general election in New Jersey taxes place. What’s his laughable explanation on holding the special election three weeks before the general election? New Jersey needs a representative “as soon as possible.”
I know you’re thinking, “but he could have appointed a replacement to serve through 2014. Isn’t he hurting his own party?” Yes, he could have, and yes, he is. But that’s his brand. He’s not developed cross-party support in New Jersey, and across the country, by being a party hack. He’s done it by deftly choosing when to buck the Republicans, and when to pursue his own interests.
Christie isn’t dumb. He sees the poll numbers showing the decline of his party. He knows what type of politician voters want to see on the presidential ballot in 2016. If he can survive the buzzsaw of his own backward party’s primaries, he’ll be a formidable candidate for Hillary Clinton or whoever emerges out of the Democratic pack.
But don’t pretend it’s authentic.
In this special election flap, Christie could have easily held the special election on Election Day, but that would have meant having Cory Booker on the same ballot, and potentially driving down the margin of his likely victory over Barbara Buono (as well as hurting down-ballot candidates). That wouldn’t do for Christie, who wants to be able to go into 2016 saying, “I’m a Republican, and I won in a blue state by 20 points.”
What’s worse is having the special election just three weeks before the regular election will cost taxpayers an extra $12 million dollars. How did the budget-cutting Republican respond: “I don’t know what the cost is and I quite frankly don’t care.” This coming from the same governor who rejected minimum-wage increase, tax breaks for low-income residents and eliminated after-school education for poor kids on the basis that the state couldn’t afford it.
Just compare his rhetoric now to what he said back in December of 2009, when specifically asked about what he would do if Frank Lautenberg died while in office:
Chris Christie, 2009: “I don’t think any responsible governor at this point would call for a special election that would cost ten million dollars.”
Chris Christie, 2013: “I don’t know what the cost is and I quite frankly don’t care.”
Does that sound authentic? Of course it doesn’t. It sounds like Chris Christie.
Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at RobTornoe.com, and follow him on twitter @RobTornoe.