No sale in Tampa

Published on Friday, August 31, 2012

 Chris Christie
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012.

Christie’s angry summer bummer

It wasn’t what Chris Christie envisioned.

Given most of the summer to write a speech selling himself as the next big thing to his fellow Republicans, our governor appears to have fallen flat on his face with his nationally televised keynote address to the GOP convention.

At least part of his intent was to convince a national audience of the great job he’s done in New Jersey.  But based on reviews from both sides of the aisle, Christie’s speech may have permanently crippled his image as a national figure.

Thanks to recently released data, our governor had to toss his “Jersey Comeback” narrative overboard, because – like so many of his boasts – it’s sorely lacking in veracity.  There’s something about the third-worst unemployment rate in the nation (and the highest in New Jersey in the past 35 years) that takes the air out of all the “comeback” talk.

More than one pundit talked about the angry tone of Christie’s speech, as if we haven’t seen plenty of that in the past three years.  What has become a troubling tendency in New Jersey was on full display in Tampa, and it wasn’t pretty.  Neither was his roundly criticized self-aggrandizement for the first 17 minutes of his speech, during which he never once mentioned the man he was ostensibly there to praise.

But most troubling, from our perspective, was his return to union-bashing.  It was bad enough that he misrepresented NJEA’s role in crafting the recent tenure reform legislation.  (To hear Christie tell it, we were dragged kicking and screaming to the bill signing, at which he actually praised NJEA for its positive, collaborative role in the process.)  Those who saw Christie’s original bill and compared it to NJEA’s thoughtful, research-based proposal, know whose ideas proved most acceptable at the end of the process.

When Christie told the delegates that “tonight we choose respect over love,” and followed that with “we believe in teachers,” you could almost hear 125,000 teachers across New Jersey utter a collective “are you kidding?”  This was right after he insulted our union in yet another effort at dividing and conquering.

Our governor apparently just can’t help himself.  But it would be nice if he could take a stab at honesty, just once. 

You see, Governor, you can’t say you “believe in” teachers and school employees when you’ve spent three years demeaning them, disrespecting them, scapegoating them, and blaming them for problems you just aren’t solving.

If you “respected” us, you wouldn’t have lied in an open campaign letter to us promising not to change our pensions, because that’s what you did.  You wouldn’t have cut more than a billion dollars from state school spending in your first year – forcing 10,000 of us to lose our jobs.  You wouldn’t have ignored the fact that our public schools rank at or near the top nationally in virtually every measure, while continually using the phrase “failing public schools” as if it were one word.   You wouldn’t be trying to tie our careers to student test scores when every credible study says that’s a disastrous and doomed approach.

But while we’ve come to expect this abuse, this time America got an up-close look at our governor’s aura, and based on the reviews, it’s apparently “no sale.” 

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