Chris Christie, the Snow, and the Beach

The election of 1962 in the city of Newark, New Jersey, was ugly. It got to be a contest of ethnic prejudice. The city was mostly black, but black people were pretty much powerless. The majority were confined to the Central Ward. The opportunity for gerrymandering was a great temptation for those in power, and who very much wanted to stay in power.

There were 50 members on the city council. Only 6 of those 50 were black. Black people were, to put it plainly, not a political consideration.

The contest for mayor was considered to be between Irish and Italian neighborhoods. Leo Carlin was the incumbent mayor. He represented the Irish power structure.

The mayor was challenged by Hugh Addonizio. Addonizio was considered a sort of unification candidate. He was Italian who lived in an Irish neighborhood. He was married to an Irish spouse. He was a war hero with roots in Newark going way back. His father was the owner of a successful clothing business.

It was an unequal contest. Mayor Carlin had used every bit of his power to promote city building projects. That made him popular in the business community.

Addonizio pointed out that those building projects were an invitation for official corruption. He was the honest outsider running against the machine.

Still, Carlin’s business backers and community ties gave him an edge. Just to be sure, he began stressing his ethnic background. He warned Irish crowds that a vote for Addonizio would be a vote against one of their own. They didn’t want an Italian in office, did they?

Carlin’s lead grew. He began to look like a sure thing.

Then God intervened.

It was later called the Storm that Swallowed the Jersey Shore. Snow covered everything. Then snow covered the snow, then covered the snowbanks with more snow. Up and down the Atlantic coast, 45,000 buildings were demolished. It was 72 hours of white hell.

At the time, I lived several hundred miles north of New Jersey. I remember, as a kid, walking through plowed sidewalks that had become narrow valleys of snow. It was like walking through a series of hallways.

Newark was hard hit. So Mayor Carlin took quick action. He put qualified people in charge, then took off for Florida.

Those Newark residents who were without electric power and who could get hold of a newspaper, saw pictures of their mayor wearing trunks sitting next to a swimming pool in Miami. The beverage he drank may have been lemonade.

Most of those who did have power had television. There was extensive coverage of Mayor Carlin enjoying his sunny vacation while voters were stuck in their homes, glancing worriedly through windows at the descending white mountain of cold suffering.

When election day came, Mayor Carlin became Citizen Carlin. Hugh Addonizio was the new Mayor of Newark.

I thought about Mayor Carlin when snow hit Newark again a few years ago in 2010. Cory Booker was Mayor. He was not in Florida. Newark residents, stuck in their homes, watched on television or saw the internet, as Mayor Booker pushed through the snowy streets of their city. They saw him delivering diapers, shoveling snow, aiding in a medical emergency, even helping to deliver a baby. They listened as he begged for volunteers, then saw him lead those volunteers to residents who needed help.

Mayor Cory Booker became very-very-popular-Mayor Cory Booker.

I was amazed at the political resiliency of Governor Chris Christie in 2010. As Cory Booker multi-tasked on the streets of Newark, Governor Christie saw reports of that historic snow storm as it approached, and took off for Disney World. His Lieutenant Governor, Kim Guadagno, saw reports of the same approaching storm and took off for vacation in sunny New Mexico.

For some reason, perhaps some permutation of the news cycle, or some overriding local news story, the jaunt to Disney World did not seem to affect the popularity of the Governor.

Perhaps voter tolerance had grown past the point at which a single snowstorm can provoke the electorate. Or maybe citizens simply required a double dose of symbolic abuse.

The Governor has been at war with the New Jersey legislature of late. They had failed to pass the state budget that state law requires of them. They had gotten no leadership, no guidance of any kind, from the Governor. He had, however, offered an incentive.

He closed all state run public beaches. Then, on the beach outside of his home, he and his family went on a lonely outing, relaxing in the sun. They had the entire public shore at Island Beach State Park, all of it, all to themselves.

The Governor denied the story. Well, he sort of denied it.

I didn’t get any sun today.

Governor Chris Christie, July 2, 2017

But New Jersey’s most widely circulated newspaper, the Star-Ledger, had sent a photographer up in a plane. Statewide news outlets carried the photos of the Governor lounging in a beach chair.

Could it get any worse? A spokesperson for the Governor explained that the Governor had been telling the absolute truth – I didn’t get any sun today – because he had been wearing a baseball cap. Yeah, that would make it worse.

It is an astonishing bit of public relations. All of New Jersey is in a state of outrage. In the Governor’s defense, he and his family and any guests are allowed because he actually owns a house next to the beach. Well, actually, it’s a house provided to the Governor by the taxpayers of New Jersey. The Governor explained:

The Governor is allowed to go to his residences. And I’m at my residence.

News outlets carried footage of Governor Christie … how to put it … kind of gloating about going where he had ordered nobody else be allowed to go.

The Governor has a residence at island beach. Others don’t. That’s the way it goes. Run for governor, and you can have the residence.

It seemed like a sort of doomsday political move, about the worst possible. Then it turned out that the worst was just arriving. Six other families with cottages next to that same beach were ordered out. If they did not vacate their homes, Governor Christie would have them arrested.

If Chris Christie had been plotting against himself, he would seem to have succeeded in political self-destruction. He remains popular among 15% of New Jersey voters. That is not a misprint. Fifteen percent.

Times do change in politics. Just look at Newark’s mayors.

Newark’s Mayor Hugh Addonizio turned out to be much more corrupt than the Mayor he accused of corruption. His take went past six figures. He was convicted and eventually served five years of a ten year sentence. He is still known as Newark’s Million Dollar Mayor.

Newark’s Mayor Cory Booker turned out to be the one for whom Diogenes had been searching, lantern in hand, all those thousands of years. Pathologically honest, Cory Booker is now known as Senator Booker.

Newark’s Mayor Leo Carlin was known from 1962 onward as Newark’s Son of Florida.

And New Jersey Governor Chris Christie? The man photographed with family enjoying themselves on an otherwise vacant beach, the one who had his neighbors evicted from their homes?

He is not known as a straight-arrow Senator. That would be Cory Booker.

He is not known as a corrupt Million Dollar Mayor. That would be Hugh Addonizio.

He is not known as Newark’s Son of Florida. Newark’s Son of Florida would be Leo Carlin.

If anything, Chris Christie may be known by New Jersey residents as their very own Son-Of-a-Beach.

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21 thoughts on “Chris Christie, the Snow, and the Beach”

  1. Mr. Dubya, I don’t know how much you personally have helped those in need, but in the world I travel, I have seen generosity, compassion, and the giving of one’s time and treasure far more often from those evil conservatives ( myself included) than I typically seen from compassionate progressives. Often times the Left’s compassion usually involves the giving of money from my wallet instead of their own.

    1. There does exist a body of data that seems to contradict that conservative stereotype.

      It does remind me of a remark Jerry terHorst made about his friend Gerald Ford. terHorst was always puzzled by the seeming contradiction between the President’s personal compassion and his political principles.

      “If he saw a school kid in front of the White House who needed clothing, if he was the right size, he’d give him the shirt off his back, literally. Then he’d go right in the White House and veto the school lunch bill.”

      The principle expressed by some of my conservative friends is easy to understand, but it does seem a little jarring. A compassionate conservative would gladly throw a life preserver to a drowning kid, unless that life preserver belonged to someone else who was not there to give permission.

      Conservatives who make it into news broadcasts are made of sterner stuff. There is a purity of meanness in their statements that sets them apart from my generous friend Mr. Paine.

  2. For 2016, it still looks like red states out-perform blue states overall for charitable giving. See the bottom of the story at this link for the percentages:

    As for me personally, well I don’t particularly like to go into details with everyone on line, but suffice it to say that I always am finding ways to donate money and time to those around my community and across the globe that are in need. Ironically I was criticized not too long ago by a liberal relative for wasting my time and money doing so.

    My personal reasons for doing so have to do with my faith and what I perceive to be my personal responsibility as a Christian to help those in need. Of course that is often perceived to be a foolish justification from some on the Left too.

    Knowing the quality of the man you are Burr, I know you are not among those cynical folks.

    1. A countering study. Some factors have been noted in other studies.

      Those belonging to churches or social organizations are more likely to give, for example, simply because of opportunity. This is regardless of political orientation.

      There are differences in what folks define as charity (Does “political education” count?) and also differences in likelihood of declaring gifts for tax purposes (Does a painting that ends up hanging in a hotel count? Mr. Trump thought so. Do contributions that don’t arrive on tax forms get noticed?)

      The thrust of my point is that there is a new accent on mean spirited public comment from emboldened conservatives. I’m open to the argument that this comes, at least partly, from a media bias toward the spectacular. If it bleeds, it leads.

      However, I have not seen evidence of that. And there is some polling that contradicts the theory. Trump supporters, for example, are more likely to agree with racist statements about African Americans. Your personal circle of friends may not be more broadly representative.

  3. I think all you have to do is look at the healthcare bill that republicans are trying to pass to see where conservatives want to place their money.

  4. Mr. Deming, I understand your point and I would concur that donating a painting to a museum is not going to necessarily have the impact in helping the poor and downtrodden that providing coats to kids in the winter, or back to school items for poor kids, or helping to collect and stock up items for food banks would. I find it interesting that you noted that those folks that attend church regularly tend to have greater opportunities to donate. Well…yeah… that means these folks are trying to actually live their faiths, I would suspect.

    As for Mr. Dubya, there is a reason why I don’t go into specifics about my charitable works. I am not interested in kudos or thanks for doing what I do. As for your systemic parasite problem you seem to be having, let me say that a parasite is only such if the person is able to provide for themselves but chooses not to do so in order that others can do so for him. Sadly, what we subsidize we end up with more thereof, hence our infestation problem currently.

    1. “Having greater opportunities to donate” and “trying to actually live one’s faith” are two different things, as are “charitable giving” and “tithing because one believes that it is a requirement of his religion or god.” Your average atheist, for example, does not have weekly meetings with large and organized groups of people with shared beliefs and goals who are expected to consistently give some percentage of their income to that organization in the name of a savior deity. The opportunities presented to, resources readily available to, and forces at work on us absolutely matter to any moral analysis of discrepancies between different groups’ charitable giving.

      Of course, the moral values of different types of charitable giving vary considerably as well. You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t regard donations/service to organizations fighting against LGBT or abortion rights to be equivalent to helping the homeless or refugees or if I am skeptical of religious organizations that use their philanthropic work as a means of convincing people to join them.

    2. Mr. Paine.

      You are crowing about you and the Right giving more to charity. This tactic is clearly more about defending your politics and need to be seen as more virtuous, than it is about any concern for “parasites”. Nice to see you’ve redefined the term to your satisfaction. That was not how it was presented originally.

      Yes, that is the term I called out as hateful. You, in turn, declared it was MY hate that was “fanning the flames” for calling out that hate. You have shown you are quite blind to hate on the right, and perhaps in your own heart. You may rationalize all you want, but you have no regard for the accuracy or effects of your accusations on your targets.

      I expect you to accuse me of more hate for reporting these facts. (You love to accuse me, don’t you, old buddy? You have a long history of this. ) Accusing me of hate suited you more than recognizing the hate of the “parasite” statement. And your tacit agreement with the vile and absurd accusation that claimed Sanders, and by association his supporters, condoned a shooter is outright offensive. I resent it, and call out your hate on this, as well as the original author’s hate, sir.

      Are you so brainwashed or detached from reality as to think Wall Street friendly Hillary is a commie? If so, it is impossible to have a rational discussion with you.

      The Right has long relied on liberals being non-confrontational. Liberals have been on the receiving end of this demonization long enough! I know it shocks you that some of us will now respond to these lies and abuse.

      Imagine if every time some Trumpist, or other far Right hater, played your commie card, the response was, “Yes, you and the Nazis love to demonize others as commies”. Someone’s delicate sensibilities would be hurt, wouldn’t they? No matter if the statement is true.


      Behold the hate again:

      Sanders doesn’t oppose what Hodgkinson did. He opposes Hodgkinson’s method….Now imagine a right wing politician proposing to cut back or eliminate one of America’s socialist programs, like Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare, that takes those earnings of others to satisfy your “right” to health care. Hell hath no fury like a parasite scorned.

      So you’re happy stripping health care from those “parasites” in need, while bragging about donating to your pet causes. What is truly in your mirror, besides the gracious, generous, kind, loving, thoughtful, Catholic person that you see?

      Have you ever considered for half a second how you look to those you falsely accuse, blame and demonize?

  5. Ryan, decades ago when I was still an atheist, I still found ways outside of religious organizations to help those in need, sir. If it is important enough to a person, they will find a way to make it a priority.

    Further, I would agree that political activism such as pro-marriage or anti-abortion rallies do not count as charity, even though the long term effects of strengthening traditional marriage and eradicating the evil of abortion would absolutely have a tremendously positive effect on our nation, particularly for the poorest amongst us, sir.

    Jerry, if you think that Obamacare has “fixed” the problem with healthcare, especially for the poor, then you have been completely duped, my friend. I agree that the crappy bills the GOP are putting forth thus far to replace it are also horrific, but the current status quo is absolutely unacceptable.

    1. There are people who act because they genuinely care, people who care but only act when motivated by other forces, and people who don’t care but still act when motivated by other forces. Many fall into the second and third categories. Charity statistics account for them just as much as for the first group. And that’s fine: I’d rather have a lot of people doing charitable work because they’re compelled by others than only a few people doing it because they really care. But it does matter to any discussion about “who is better.”

      As for your comment about marriage and abortion, I realize that this is not the topic, but I have to know: what is your reasoning behind your belief that forbidding gay marriage and abortion would help the poor? As far as I can tell, the poor aren’t affected by gay marriage and abortion allows them to avoid the expenses associated with having and raising a child.

    2. TP, I went back re-read my comment about the republican healthcare bill, and nowhere in it did I mention Obamacare at all. So, I think you must be replying to someone else’s comment.

  6. Ryan, my aim was not to try and point out who was “better” per se. I was rather trying to illustrate the disconnect and sometimes rank hypocrisy from some of those on the left. They crow about their compassion but seem to exercise it in concrete ways far less often than many on the right do. They condemn the Right for being selfish and uncaring, but when it comes to private acts instead of “coerced government compassion” I see the Right doing far more good than our brother and sisters on the Left in the world for the poor. That was my point, sir.

    Jerry, no you did not specifically mention Obamacare by name. The fact that the feckless and cowardly Republicans have put together some monstrosity in order to replace the original nightmare of Obamacare suggested to me that it was implied. The GOP version is not good in so many ways and indeed needs to be designed better to help those in greatest need. That said, it is still better than Obamacare, sir.

    1. Really? REALLY? What improvements over Obamacare justifies over 20 million people losing their healthcare and massive cuts to Medicaid that hurt the most needy and vulnerable people in the country.

      It saddens me to hear you say that Trumpcare is an improvement on Obamacare.

      1. It’s ’cause he doesn’t know anything about what he’s talking about. It’s different from the ACA, so it’s got to be better, right? There could be a provision in there that mandated the drowning of kittens for all he knows. It doesn’t matter, though, he knows it’s got to be better than the ACA.

  7. “They crow about their compassion.” Oh, indeed they do, even while denying doing so.

    Whatever needs to be done for the purpose of insulting liberals’ generosity, and attacking our Constitutional provision for the general welfare as “coerced government compassion”.

    Oh, the suffering! Oh, the anguish and the loss of which is so dear, from this evil coercion! This socialist Hell on Earth is beyond the understanding of hateful ignorant liberals! This jackboot of tyranny and persecution is endured most by our oppressed corporate elites, Godly and honest Republicans, and their poor under-represented neo-aristocratic patrons.

    The only compassionate and Con-constitutional thing we can do is let polluters pollute, let Wall Street write their own rules, cut taxes for the rich, and take food stamps and medicaid from the poor. Just what their Con-Constitution says we should do.

  8. This is part of your problem, Mr. Dubya.

    I don’t want to get rid of government and necessary regulation. I am not an anarchist. I want to cut down government to do ONLY those things that it is constitutionally authorized to do. Nothing more and nothing less. You seem to want it to do everything for everyone, sir.

    Because I am a student of history and economics, I have seen the inefficiency and corruption of government over the generations. I don’t look to the government to solve all of my woes and provide for all of my needs accordingly. It should do only what is required and charge all of us in taxes only that which is needed to do only those constitutionally stipulated duties.

    The government has an important and very necessary place in regulating interstate commerce (as per the constitution) and preventing competition-killing monopolies. The government should prosecute those that violate those laws, instead of making them part of the current executive branch administration.

    Because I want smaller, more efficient government, this does not mean that I automatically want Wall Street corruption, corporate welfare, and abuse of our environment. I expect our government to hold those that are guilty of such to account for their actions through fines and prison time.

    You seem to assume because I want smaller government that I want all of the corruption and waste that comes with the excesses of this leviathan government that so many of my friends on the left revere. Nothing could be further from the truth, sir.

  9. Mr. Paine,

    This is comforting.

    Because I want smaller, more efficient government, this does not mean that I automatically want Wall Street corruption, corporate welfare, and abuse of our environment. I expect our government to hold those that are guilty of such to account for their actions through fines and prison time.

    Of course you and I want the guilty held to account. While I’m obviously blind to what my problem is, thank you very much, the OTHER problem is the ruling party works FOR those guilty parties.

    In fact, they ARE the Trump Administration. The foxes are in the henhouse, bent on gutting environmental protections, deregulating Wall Street, making sure corporate cronies get their tax cuts and eliminating regulations that benefit the environment and workers. AND stripping healthcare and food stamps from the poor.

    There’s you “smaller government”, taking from the poor while serving the rich. How is that less corrupt and more efficient?

  10. Dave, as you have probably been told more than a few times, I didn’t vote for nor do I support Donald Trump and most of what he is doing along with congress. I didn’t support the previous congresses or Obama either.

    The problem is that the president and congress are no longer held accountable by the people. They only listen to the special interest groups. Until we start educating our people about civics, history, and economics, and get them to pay attention to the issues when they vote this will not change and the the special interests of either party will continue to dominate our corrupt political machines.

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