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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Christie to NJ: Drop Dead

In a puzzling display of either absolute arrogance, utter cluelessness, extremely bad political judgment or a subliminal desire to self-destruct, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on New Year's Eve defended abandoning New Jersey for DisneyWorld as a historic (and predicted) blizzard was striking the state

[UPDATE Saturday 10:30 pmAs facts and contradictory accounts emerge, it appears that Christie's flight departed a mere four hours before the acting governor (State Senator Steve Sweeney) decided to declare a state of emergency. (Note: Although the link is to a new Paul Mulshine blog entry, there are enough hard facts there for it to qualify as an informative source, for which it is cited, as well as the usual New Jersey-centric commentary.) A Sunday morning 10:30 am flight also means Christie had a full 18-21 hours notice of the predicted severity of the storm, which was being reported upon by the major media as well as The Weather Channel and] 

To add insult to injury, Christie blamed local mayors -- some of whom are Republicans -- for poor snow removal and equated criticism of him by local leaders with their unsuitability for office.   Christie made these remarks after returning from a family trip to DisneyWorld, for which they left on Sunday as the blizzard was striking New Jersey (again, as anticipated).  

To avoid repeating various points, just go straight to an excellent -- no, brilliant -- column by the Star-Ledger's Paul Mulshine accusing Christie of having committed political suicide at his Friday press conference.  (Mulshine adds to that theme in his most recent posting; for a different twist that adds commentary on a theory of the psychological basis for these actions, see Thurman Hart's column.)  During the past week, Mulshine also pointed out that Christie took his trip while knowing that his Lieutenant Governor, Kim Guadagno, was out of the country, thereby leaving the state in the hands of a Democratic State Senate Majority Leader and dispelling any notion of the necessity of a lieutenant governor (whose primary function is to be around when the governor isn't).

New Jersey is a state that has a $54 billion (as of 2009) unfunded pension liability, a top-to-bottom arterosclerotic government structure from which too many people draw salaries to thwart reform without systematic and structural change, a culture of entitlement and corruption (both the outrightly illegal and the quasi-legal, unethical kind), a growing property tax burden (highest in the nation) and growing regulatory and tax burden upon all businesses.

How in the (Disney) world does this Governor now command any leadership to effect any meaningful reform?

Judging from the bristling at criticism on December 31, 2010, Christie's modus operandi is becoming clear now. He'll do thuggish, Tony Soprano-style brute force. 

Strategically, without getting into merits of policy, this is a tremendous mistake that raises issues of basic judgment, temperament and, to be frank, emotional maturity -- his emotional IQ. 

It also raises a different question about Christie's advisors.  Has Christie surrounded himself with top-notch talent that will call a spade a spade and tell him when things aren't "good ideas" -- people like Bret Schundler, whom Christie unceremoniously disgraced and fired earlier this year -- or with sycophants and "yes men"? 

Do we have a reformer, a democratically-elected governor, responsive to the electorate, or a wannabe dictator who emulates Hugo Chavez?  Is this change New Jersey residents can believe in?
Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer who provides legal advice, strategic analysis and strategic consulting for business, political and individual clients through Eric Dixon LLC.  While Governor Christie was taking pictures with Donald, Goofy and Mickey, Mr. Dixon shoveled snow on Monday morning, endured five days of hellish commutes and worked each day of this past week.  Mr. Dixon is available for consultation or comment at 917-696-2442 and via e-mail at

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