New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a favorite among conservative Republicans for his in-your-face attitude, appears to be losing it.
Just last week, the governor was buying ice cream with his family on the Jersey Shore when a heckler criticized his education policies.
Instead of smiling and wishing him a nice day, as 99% of politicians would have done, the governor got into a full Travis Bickle “you talkin’ to me?” crouch straight outa Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver.”
“You’re a real big shot shooting your mouth off!” Christie yelled out.
When the man responded, “just take care of the teachers,” the governor told him to “keep walkin’ away … keep walkin’.”
The previous week, when a reporter asked him what he would do to resolve a contentious state legislature session, the governor shot back: “Did I say on topic? Are you stupid? On topic, on topic.” The “topic” in question, by the way, was water.
Gov. Christie ended the event by saying, “I’m sorry for the idiot over there,” then walked away.
This is just the latest in a long series of incidents in which the governor made disparaging remarks about the media (which can take it) and actual New Jersey voters.
Earlier this year, he described a Navy Seal who disagreed with him as an “idiot.”
And last year, when a mother asked him why he put his children in private school when he was cutting the budgets of public school systems, Christie famously replied:
Hey Gail, you know what, first of all it’s none of your business. I don’t ask you where you send your kids to school. Don’t bother me where I send mine.
Many people view this as “straight talk.” To me, it’s just rude and reflects poor anger management. Sure, a lot of voters aren’t too bright and more than a few reporters are “idiots.” Doesn’t a governor have to shrug it off and focus on more important things?
Christie’s political star, once rising, has now plateaued. He clearly won’t be former Gov. Mitt Romney’s running mate, and these outbursts won’t help him win presidential primaries and convention delegates from more laid-back states than New Joisey in, say, 2016.
The governor may be going through some deeper struggles. In a candid interview with ABC News, he acknowledged that his weight problem is “a really difficult thing to deal with.” He continued:
I guess the best analogy to make is some people drink too much. Some people take drugs. Some people eat too much. See, you can go live every day without drinking. You can live every day without taking drugs. You can’t live every day without eating.
I’m sympathetic, because I had a weight problem into early adulthood, and he’s right, it’s very difficult.
But something else may be “eating” at him more—he’s been unable to get his budget through the state legislature—and this budget is less austere than previous Christie efforts.
In fact, Reuters’ savvy writer Gail Long observed that New Jersey’s finances are quietly deteriorating again:
The state still relies on short-term deficit financing and other tricks to get the budget balanced at the end of the fiscal year. Since Christie took office in November 2009, the state’s debt load reversed its downward march and returned to the high levels last seen in 2005 under former Governor Jon Corzine.
Jon Corzine? That’s fighting words to Chris Christie.
And Long brings the whole issue home:
Christie’s Jersey Shore bluster and attacks on the Democrats do nothing to address the core budget problems of New Jersey. The state’s public pension plan remains woefully unfunded at 67 percent, and New Jersey faces some enormous deferred contributions in the coming years.
Or, in other words, it’s the economy, idiot.