By Alan Caruba
It’s the curse of having sat through too many local town council meetings and too many speeches by politicians; it’s taking notes as they speak because you want to keep what’s said fresh in mind. Regular folks don’t do this, but anyone who has spent any time as a reporter will tell you it is a hard habit to break.
So, on Tuesday, January 11, I found myself taking notes as New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, gave his first constitutionally required State of the State speech. He will be back in February with a speech about his budget. It was delivered to the members of the New Jersey Senate and Assembly, mostly Democrats; all of whom had learned in the previous year that the Governor was a jolly, fat buzz-saw who just loves a good fight.
Gov. Christie was preceded by two of the worst Governors in current times, Jim McGreevey who discovered he was gay after he put his boyfriend on the payroll and the whispers in the statehouse became a raging storm. He was followed by Jon Corzine, a limousine liberal. Together they increased taxes and fees 115 times in eight years! In a single term in office, Corzine raised taxes $9 billion!
I am New Jersey born and bred. I have traveled to nearly every other State in the Union with the exception of Alaska, Maine and Vermont. Do you really think I would ever leave a state that was the fictional home of Tony Soprano and the actual birthplace of Frank Sinatra? You gotta be kidding me! Forgetaboutit!
Two days after Gov. Christie took office, the state treasurer informed him that Corzine had left him and everyone else in New Jersey with a $2.2 billion deficit! Did he immediately raise taxes to cover it? No. Instead, he and the treasurer scoured the budget and found $2.2 billion in projected spending. What he did next stunned a state legislature almost as profligate as California’s. He impounded the $2.2 billion by executive order.
Goodbye old world order in New Jersey. Hello Chris Christie new world order in the Garden State. As Gov. Christie put it, to create real change, “you’ve got to show a little attitude.” If there is one thing New Jerseyans have and love, it is attitude!
So it should come as no surprise that, when Gov. Christie turned 18 and was eligible to vote, he voted for Ronald Reagan. In a talk in November at a Goldwater Institute event, he recalled how “then-Governor Reagan spoke to me. He talked about smaller, less intrusive government that was going to open up our country to exploit the entrepreneurial spirit that has always built and made it a unique place.”
“He talked about less spending, so that less money would come to Washington and more money would stay with the people who knew how to spend it best. He talked about a government that didn’t regulate every little bit and piece of your life.”
“And he talked about lowering taxes so that people could feel the economic freedom that comes from not having a government in your pocket every 15 minutes.”
Christie’s State of the State speech reflected the values that Ronald Reagan espoused and, in this centennial year of his birth, I think he would have loved every word of it. “I believe in a culture of truth,” said Gov. Christie. The voters liked what they heard and happily replaced Corzine with a man who had gained recognition by putting corrupt New Jersey politicians in jail.
On Tuesday Gov. Christie told the assembled legislators, “We cannot spend money we don’t have.” Do I dare hope that Chris Christie will someday run for President?
The latter part of his State of the State speech was a dissection of how retrograde the state teacher’s union is and why the state’s pension and benefits system had to be changed because it was hideously under-funded by billions and because he wanted to ensure that policemen, firemen, and other civil service employees would actually have a pension when they retired.
Last year he spoke to an initially hostile meeting of firefighters. By the time he got through they all crowded around him, eager to shake his hand and get their picture taken with him. Christie is no ordinary politician. “This isn’t about politics,” he said, “This is about their lives.”
He is passionate about reforming the school system in New Jersey and would, one suspects, take delight in crushing a teacher’s union that exists for nothing other than political power. Last year, when he urged New Jersey voters to demand 4% to 5% pay cuts, 59% of the school budgets were defeated.
Ronald Reagan stood six foot, two inches tall. He had literally been a movie star! Chris Christie is short. He is fat. And he is completely comfortable with that. He is a good public speaker and when he speaks, you know he really means what he says.
He’s not some cookie-cutter version of Ronald Reagan, his inspiration. He is Gov. Chris Christie and New Jersey is loving every minute of it.