New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) delivered the annual “State of the State” address to Garden State lawmakers yesterday, which is ostensibly the governor’s opportunity to reflect on New Jersey’s progress over the last year and lay out a vision for the future.
But before the speech even began, it seemed pretty obvious that Christie wasn’t thinking about New Jersey.
Christie did not invite New Jersey press to an off-the-record meeting just hours ahead of his annual speech, several local reporters tweeted on Tuesday. But he did invite outlets such as ABC, NBC, CNN, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press, according to WNYC reporter Matt Katz.“When is a State of the State address about more than the ‘State’? When in-STATE reporters are ditched for a national press only briefing,” tweeted Luke Margolis, a State House reporter for News 12 New Jersey.
Journalists in New Jersey were, by some accounts, “apoplectic,” and the governor’s office would not explain to them why they were excluded from Christie’s pre-“State of the State” briefing.
Of course, there’s no great mystery to all of this. The governor, who’s currently in the process of setting up a leadership political action committee, is already spending less and less time in the state he represents, so it stands to reason he’d shift his focus away from New Jersey and its media. Christie has his eyes on the White House, and reporters in Trenton aren’t going to help him get there.
The speech itself was therefore predictable, but in a way that reinforced the governor’s broader electoral challenges.
“Economic growth is low by post-war recovery standards. America’s leadership in the world is called into question because of a pattern of indecision and inconsistency. During this time of uncertainty it seems our leaders in Washington would rather stoke division for their own political gain. And this culture of divisiveness and distrust has seeped into our communities and our neighborhoods.“As I traveled the country over the last year, this anxiety was the most palpable emotion I saw and felt. I saw it on the streets of Chicago and felt it in the suburbs of Maryland. I heard it from farmers in Kansas and from teachers in Colorado. I felt it from veterans in Maine and from workers in Arkansas. But the wisest words came from an 82-year-old woman in Florida. She grabbed my hand and asked me a simple, but powerful question: ‘What’s happened to our country? We used to control events. Now events control us.’”
As presidential platforms go, this is pretty weak tea.
Christie is admittedly in a bind. The list of the governor’s successes in New Jersey is alarmingly bare, while the list of President Obama’s success keeps growing. So as the governor gets ready for the national trail, he’s left with more amorphous talking points: Christie wants to focus on “palpable emotions” and vague concerns related to “inconsistency” and “distrust.”
Presumably, the governor was not referring to the distrust that may have festered in New Jersey when residents learned Christie’s aides paralyzed Fort Lee on purpose as a part of a political retribution scheme.
Meanwhile, the governor’s approval rating has dropped to just 39% among his own constituents, which is far from a groundswell of support for a national promotion.
Postscript: This is admittedly a tangent, but when Christie said, “We used to control events. Now events control us.,” I was reminded of Abraham Lincoln. In 1864, Lincoln wrote, ”I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me.”
Try to imagine that Republicans and the Beltway media would do if Obama said something like that today.