Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 27, 2010

NEW JERSEY'S ACTING GOVERNOR.... I'm generally uninterested in coverage of the snowfall in the northeast, but I noticed several reports noting that New Jersey's acting governor is using every available resource to address the snow-related problems.

And then it occurred to me to question why on earth an "acting governor" is making these decisions.

New Jersey will remain in a state of emergency throughout rush hour Monday as crews try to clean up still-treacherous roads, acting Gov. Stephen Sweeney said.

"We really want people to stay off the roads and give us a chance to clean them up," he said from Gloucester County, in a part of southern New Jersey which wasn't hit as hard as the northern side of the state. "We were hammered ... This was a very difficult storm to deal with."

Sweeney, a Democrat and president of the state Senate, declared a state of emergency Sunday evening and activated the National Guard. While Gov. Chris Christie and Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno are out of state, Sweeney is filling in as the state's chief executive.

Apparently, New Jersey's lieutenant governor left for Mexico last week. Gov. Christie was told yesterday that the state was likely to get slammed by a blizzard, but he nevertheless got on a plane and headed to Disney World in Florida.

Ironically, state officials only recently added the office of the lieutenant governor, so New Jersey wouldn't be without a chief executive in the event of an emergency during a gubernatorial absence. That apparently didn't work out well -- both Christie and Guadagno took off at the same time.

I don't want to be too harsh towards Christie here. The governor and lieutenant governor deserve vacations just like everyone else, and it's not at all unusual for folks in the Northeast to take some time off in warmer climates this time of year. For that matter, as far as I can tell, the acting governor is doing everything right, so it's not as if New Jersey is suffering because Christie and Guadagno left town before trouble hit. Had either or both of them stuck around, the state response to the storm would likely have been identical.

But there are political appearances to consider -- Christie was told about the impending blizzard, and bolted for Florida anyway -- and it's hard to predict how the public will react. At a minimum, the image of Christie as a hands-on, take-charge chief executive will probably take a hit.

Steve Benen 3:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (35)

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Comments

I suppose that's better than abandoning office halfway through your term. Or disappearing for a hiking trip down the Appalachian Trail.

Posted by: Monty on December 27, 2010 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

"At a minimum, the image of Christie as a hands-on, take-charge chief executive will probably take a hit."

I think I'm beginning to understand the American game. The correct answer is no. Christie is a Republican so therefore no criticism will penetrate teflon protection.

Posted by: Johnny Canuck on December 27, 2010 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

You know that the media will tell everyone that Christe bravely went to Florida knowing that the acting governor would do an adequate job. Christe would be available by phone to pull his butt out of the fire if needed.

Posted by: madstork123 on December 27, 2010 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

"At a minimum, the image of Christie as a hands-on, take-charge chief executive will probably take a hit."

Shirley, you jest! What will happen is all the unionized workers will be told they have to work without pay during the 'declared emergency'.

Posted by: DAY on December 27, 2010 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

No doubt, Christie will take off his jacket, roll up his sleeves, and invite the blizzard up to the podium to berate it.

Posted by: mister_hand on December 27, 2010 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Democrats are interested in governing. Republicans are interested in getting elected. Apparently the American people are more concerned with the latter than the former. No, Christie won't take a significant hit from this.

Posted by: Bernard Gilroy on December 27, 2010 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

There is an ample history of mayors ignoring mother nature at their peril. Chicago and Indianapolis mayors were voted out after blowing snow removal after big storms.

Here in DC Marion Barry was voted out the year (1980s) after he high tailed it to California while the city suffered under a bad Nor'Easter. He was then quoted as saying the answer to the snow was Sunshine. Snow removal or lack thereof has also been an issue in Virginia elections.

I don't think New Jersey voters will take kindly to this.

Posted by: HokieAnne on December 27, 2010 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

IOKIYR

Posted by: KJ on December 27, 2010 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Christie can now blame the COST of snow removal on a Democrat AND the fact that HE wouldn't have declared a federal emergency to take dollars from the Federal Government...he can just continue to pretend that he's a fiscal conservative that the pundits love.

Posted by: SYSPROG on December 27, 2010 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

I hope Gov. Christie took his taxpayer financed video crew with him. I'm sure the folks at home would love to see pictures of his trip to Florida on his You Tube site.

Posted by: Art Hackett on December 27, 2010 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Dumb question: in terms of chain of command, why in the world did it matter that Christie was out of state? Why did he need an acting governor to take the reins?

In this modern world, he could have probably gotten the same information on a laptop at his hotel room at Disney World as he could have at his desk in Trenton. And then consulted with the appropriate people in NJ state government by phone, email, and videoconference.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on December 27, 2010 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

Do ya think they could of worked it so that both the Governor and Lt Gov weren't out of state at the same time?

Posted by: phastphil on December 27, 2010 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe the acting governor can reinitiate the funding for the high speed rail project...

Posted by: meady on December 27, 2010 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

Even funnier:

The temperature in Orlando right now: 48 degrees, with an overnight low of 28 degrees.

Not the best time at all to go to Disneyland!

Posted by: DR on December 27, 2010 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

Low tech cyclist,

Technology can do a lot of things but it can't make up for being present when managing a disaster. When you have a disaster information is coming in very quickly and it is critical that it be assessed for reliability. You can't wait for the info to be accumulated into a report. You also have to see the disaster first hand to understand what is going on. You definitely can't rely on the news media.

Likewise, you need to be able to give commands to numerous people in short order. Yes, its possible to do it via telephone or email but its simply not as effective.

There is also a symbolic role where the Chief Elected Officer provides confidence and empathy during a disaster response. That's not possible at Disneyland.

I think this will be a big blunder. As pointed out by another commentator, numerous politicians have seriously hurt their career/reputation by not responding to a disaster in an appropriate manner. Think of Bush flying over the Katrina damage.

Posted by: Objective Dem on December 27, 2010 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

This is embarrassing partisan claptrap. I'd expect this from Republicans, not you, Benen.

It's fucking snow. They've had it before. It isn't Katrina. Why are political reporters always, ALWAYS jonesing for some made up "crisis of leadership" to seize upon?

Posted by: Anonymous on December 27, 2010 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

He had to go to Disney World. He was booked to read "My Pet Goat" to a bunch of kids there. How could he miss that?

Posted by: Eric on December 27, 2010 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

I think the fact that CC (or KC, CK, or WTF) left the state of NJ WITH FULL KNOWLEDGE THAT
1. his Lt. Gov was out of the country;
2. the blizzard was bearing down on NJ; and
3. due to his own lack of prudence, a Democrat would be in charge due to manage the State's response to the blizzard
IS A RINGING ENDORSEMENT OF DEM CAPABILITIES
(AS WELL AS AN ADMISSION OF HIS OWN INEPTITUDE WHEN IT COMES TO DECISION-MAKING)

Posted by: Steve-A-Dor on December 27, 2010 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

Anonymous, I didn't see Benen comment that this was the equivalent of Katrina or anything along those lines. I found the story interesting on several levels including the fact that both the Lt. Gov and the Gov were out of state at the same time. I don't think many states allow that.

In regards to your comment that it is just snow, you clearly haven't dealt with a major snow emergency. This isn't a case like in the south where people panic and then the snow melts in three hours. At this time of year, you have to worry about the snow remaining in place for the next month or two. There are logistical issues related to where you store the snow that was shoveled. There are numerous public safety issues due to the weight of the snow collapsing buildings and streets closed to emergency vehicles. There are numerous other issues which is why FEMA has a "Snow Emergency" designation.

The other reason is it is interesting is Disaster response is a big issue politically. One reason George Bush I lost re-election was blowing the response in Florida for Hurricane Andrew. Additionally, the story in Chicago has always been that Mayor Bilandic lost re-election to Jane Byrne because he didn't get the streets plowed.

Posted by: Objective Dem on December 27, 2010 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

I think the coward,
Anonymous on December 27, 2010 at 5:21 PM

DESERVES to live in a state "governed" (OR, MORE PROPERLY PUT, "abandoned")
by
CC (or KC, CK, or WTF)

IT IS SHEER LUNACY TO HAVE
B O T H
THE GOV & LT.GOV. OUT OF THE STATE DURING A CRISIS

AND CC (or KC, CK, or WTF) DESERVES ALL THE
S H I T
HE WILL GET FROM NJ RESIDENTS

Posted by: Steve-A-Dor on December 27, 2010 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

BEING A LIFELONG CHICAGOAN, I HAVE LIVED THRU
MANY BIZZARDS
and so I can assure
Anonymous the coward, i.e.,
Anonymous on December 27, 2010 at 5:21 PM
that people fucking DIE in BIZZARDS, and it is NOT UNCOMMON for that to occur.
Also the provision of emergency health care, and
routine care to those who cannot care for themselves, gets all screwed up in a blizzard.
For that matter, so does routine COMMERCE, which should be near and dear to the heart of
CC (or KC, CK, or WTF).

One more thing . . .
CC (or KC, CK, or WTF) IS A DAMN MORON
TO LEAVE THE STATE
k n o w i n g
t h a t
B O T H
THE GOV & LT.GOV.
WOULD BE OUT OF THE STATE DURING A CRISIS

Posted by: Steve-A-Dor on December 27, 2010 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

"not at all unusual for folks in the Northeast to take some time off in warmer climates this time of year"

Yea, we do that to avoid blizzards. Though, I think one should not do it if it is your job to run things when there is a blizzard.

Posted by: ropty on December 27, 2010 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

I am old enough to remember the damage done to the career of "Bahama John" Lindsay when he failed to return after a storm. The Democrats need to hang a tag like Orlando Chris or Disney Christie on him. And they need to declare as often as possible that he and the LtG left town to make way for someone who could do the job. Gov. Fat and Stupid needs to take a big hit for this.

Posted by: montag on December 27, 2010 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

@ montag:

"Gov. Dumbo" would work: unfortunately, "Goofy" is already taken.

Posted by: Jay C on December 27, 2010 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

You have to plan to get to Orlando, and you have to plan to get home, it isn't like this was done without knowledge. Especially when he learned that there would be a blizzard.Of course it's on him.
Only repugs get a pass, because they know it will irritate us.Rethugs evidently care for nothing more.

Posted by: Michael on December 27, 2010 at 7:45 PM | PERMALINK

Christie had a previous commitment to be a float in the Disney World Main Street New Year's Day Parade.

Posted by: Roger Ailes on December 27, 2010 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

"fair-weather Chris" works for me

Posted by: Steve-A-Dor on December 27, 2010 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

If a liberal Democrat went on vacation during an epic blizzard, the GOP Noise Machine would be in over drive criticizing that Democrat 24/7. The voters would never hear the end of it.

Posted by: Dennis on December 27, 2010 at 8:30 PM | PERMALINK

Does taking a vacation the day before a major blizzard while the Lt. Gov is out of state mean that "Disney" Christie is running a Mickey Mouse operation?

Posted by: Here's Waldo on December 27, 2010 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

christie is a vile disgusting exceptionally arrogant pig. Not surprising at all he would run away when the state had a looming crisis.
.

Posted by: New Jerseyian on December 27, 2010 at 10:30 PM | PERMALINK

I like the "fair weather" Chris tagline.

Posted by: Objective Dem on December 27, 2010 at 10:33 PM | PERMALINK

the bottom line is that most New Jerseyians won't even know that the top 2 republicans were out of state vacationing during an emergency because the republican media will bury it.

Posted by: pluege on December 27, 2010 at 10:39 PM | PERMALINK

One of the first things I learned as a young employee was that my boss and I couldn't schedule vacation at the same time. Don't the Gov. and Lt. Gov. communicate with each other about these things?

Posted by: Don K on December 27, 2010 at 11:16 PM | PERMALINK

While the Governor and the Lt. Governor shouldn't have been out of the state at the same time, as much as I hate some Republicans, I'm with those who don't see this as a big deal. Family time is important, too, especially for those in political offices who don't get to spend that much time with their families sometimes. I don't think a Governor has THAT much to do with snow removal-it's mostly municipalites & highway folks. It's not like he's going to say, "send ten plows over there, and get those sidewalks salted at 10th & Main"!

Posted by: Brian on December 28, 2010 at 12:03 AM | PERMALINK

When Christine Whitman was the NJ Governor, she interrupted snow removal operations for a photo op of her driving a snowplow for 10 or 20 feet. So at least NJ voters will be spared that camera hogging behavior.

Then again, Sunny Boy CC may be too portly to climb into the driver's seat.

Posted by: Bruce388 on December 28, 2010 at 5:29 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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