Pump your brakes, Gov. Christie

Don't let the halo being put above New Jersey governor Chris Christie fool you, argued host Melissa Harris-Perry Saturday in her open letter.
Don't let the halo being put above New Jersey governor Chris Christie fool you, argued host Melissa Harris-Perry Saturday in her open letter.
AP Photo/Mel Evans, File

Long after images of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation vanished from our television screens, one very visible–and very vocal–reminder has made it impossible to ignore the ongoing struggles of Sandy’s victims: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

His advocacy for New Jersey’s recovery effort has extended his 15 minutes of national fame far beyond his speech at the Republican National Convention. In fact, his  popularity may even have him thinking he can stretch that 15 minutes all the way to the White House in 2016.

But let’s not get too hasty. Because in my open letter this week, I’d like to remind the governor of a few things that may make him–and American voters–want to think twice.

Dear Gov. Christie,

It’s me, Melissa. Well, there’s no denying it–you are definitely having a moment. Since last year when you put partisan politics aside to praise President Obama’s disaster response to the recent kick in the pants you gave House Speaker John Boehner, it seems you’ve become the voice of America’s frustration with Washington. And as a resident of a city that knows all too well what it means to rebuild in the wake of catastrophe, I know the people of New Jersey are grateful to have you as a champion.

You can tell by your 73% approval rating. And even more impressive, as a Republican governor of a blue state, you’ve managed to get 62% approval among Democrats, 70% among women, and 69% among people of color. That makes you almost a shoo-in for re-election this year. No doubt all that love has got you feeling like it’s all aboard the Christie train–next stop, the White House!

But not so fast. I’m going to need you to pump your brakes.

Your ability to lead people through the aftermath of a disaster does not qualify you to be president of the United States. Just ask Rudy Giuliani.

Oh, that Time Magazine cover line certainly had it right–you are the master of disaster. It’s just that the disaster struck long before Hurricane Sandy came ashore. Let’s hope you do a better job presiding over the state’s storm recovery than you’ve done presiding over New Jersey’s economic recovery. Because New Jersey’s economic performance ranked 47th in the nation in 2011. And right now, the [New Jersey] unemployment rate is 9.6%–surpassing the national rate by almost 2%.

It seems, governor, that residents are still waiting on that so-called “Jersey Comeback” you claimed had already begun.

And so much for your reputation for telling the hard truths–or telling the truth at all. When you ran for governor, you promised not to cut pensions, property tax rebates, or education spending. When you became governor, you promptly cut all three. Oh, and there’s also the matter of those other cuts you proposed–the tax cuts for New Jersey’s wealthiest residents. You even went so far as to veto–not once, not twice, but three times–a tax increase on millionaires.

Given your policy preferences for the wealthy, is it any wonder that it took a natural disaster and some convincing from President Obama before you could get some reciprocation in your love for Bruce Springsteen? You know his every lyric, so you also know that The Boss–I mean the real Boss–in his songs celebrates the working class. The same folks who suffer when you refuse to raise the state’s minimum wage or when you cut the earned income tax credit for low-income residents, or cut $7.4 million from reproductive health care services.

Thanks to you, the women of New Jersey now have six fewer family planning clinics. Those that remain saw 26,000 fewer patients after your budget cuts. That’s fewer breast exams, fewer cancer screenings - fewer lives that could be saved with preventative care. So yes, by all means, enjoy your moment. You’ve earned it.

But thanks to your policy record you’ve also earned what’s coming to you in 2016–and I have a feeling America’s voters are going to give you exactly what you deserve.



A discussion about Governor Christie’s record and prospects followed this open letter. Guests included TIME’s Michael Crowley, who wrote the magazine’s current cover story on the governor. See the video below.

Pump your brakes, Gov. Christie