Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 28, 2010

MAYBE CHRISTIE CAN SEND A POSTCARD.... Following up on an item from yesterday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and his lieutenant governor were told Sunday about the blizzard barreling down on the Garden State. Soon after, they left town at the same time, with Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R) and her family flying to Mexico, and Christie and his family going to Disney World in Florida.

It left state Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) in charge as the acting governor, and by all appearances, he's handling everything fine -- he declared a state of emergency, dispatched road crews, coordinated with state agencies, and activated the National Guard. The response seems to have gone fairly well, and Sweeney lifted the state of emergency this morning.

But there's still the political fallout to consider. Many are questioning why the Christie administration allowed both the governor and lieutenant governor to go on vacation at the same time, despite warnings about the impending storm. Others have noted that the governor isn't bothering to rush home to deal with the situation.

Sweeny was almost immediately immersed in storm-related issues as the blizzard approached Sunday since Governor Chris Christie and his family left for a Disney vacation in Florida at the same time Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno left on a vacation of her own. Christie plans to return to Trenton Thursday. [emphasis added]

No need to cut short the Disney vacation; the Democrat seems to have everything under control.

Perhaps even more interesting was how Cory Booker spent his day. Booker, the Democratic mayor of Newark and likely gubernatorial candidate in 2013, grabbed a shovel to help seniors and the disabled, delivered diapers to a housebound mother, helped dig out a stuck police car, and tended to a woman in labor who was waiting on an EMS team to arrive.

Again, just to clarify, some of this is just unfortunate timing for Christie. The governor and lieutenant governor deserve vacations just like everyone else, and by all appearances, the state response was unaffected by Christie's and Guadagno's absence.

But when it comes to keeping up appearances, this doesn't look great for the New Jersey governor. The vacation scheduling was clearly a mistake; Christie bolted even after being told about the impending blizzard; he's making no effort to cut short his trip; and Democratic officials are doing all the heavy lifting (sometimes literally) while the governor enjoys some fun in the sun.

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (45)

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Cory Booker has been amazing, and his use of Twitter to both coordinate and publicize his efforts has been inspired.

Posted by: robert southwell on December 28, 2010 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

This whole vacation thingy will endear him to his audience.
Didn't Ronnie and W take vacations all of the time? Sometimes even during emergencies? They worked hard. They needed the break, unlike President Kenya vacationing in Hawaii.
I'm sure 'His Corpulence' will return on Thursday, look over the situation, and find some nit to pick to blame on the Democrats.
'If it wasn't for Obamacare, that woman in labor wouldn't have had to wait for for EMS,' or 'How could the Democrats let that police car get stuck in the snow?'
Just wait. ' Secaucus Fat's' will come with something.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on December 28, 2010 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

Well, you can't expect a man of Christie's girth to pick up a shovel. The exertion could martyr him.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on December 28, 2010 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

Joan Rivers has an embroidered pillow on her sofa. It says:

"Vacations are for Amateurs".

Posted by: DAY on December 28, 2010 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

This is all about appearances. The democrats used the storm to make it appear that government is the solution not the problem.

Posted by: Al on December 28, 2010 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

"Again, just to clarify, some of this is just unfortunate timing for Christie. The governor and lieutenant governor deserve vacations just like everyone else"

At my job, I have had to cancel my vacation on numerous times because things suddenly got very busy. We all deserve vacations.

Posted by: SaintZak on December 28, 2010 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans talk tough and put on a nice show, but leave the messy stuff to the Democrats who actually deliver the goods.

Posted by: Darsan54 on December 28, 2010 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

Back in the day, when my dad was a county commisioner, we had no vacation one year because my dad had to spend his 1 week vacation to make sure a new county ambulance service was up and running when the old ambulance/undertaker method of critical care gave way to trained first responder care.

Not really a big deal. Just the sort of sacrifice real people make.

Posted by: bigtuna on December 28, 2010 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

There was a bit of karmic justice for Mr. Christie: it was 32F in Orlando this morning. The cold air followed him.

Posted by: Mustang Bobby on December 28, 2010 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

When I was worked as a paralegal, it was firm policy that you could schedule a vacation any time you wanted, BUT if a case you were working on became active, you had to cancel the vacation and reschedule the time off.

Posted by: PurpleGirl on December 28, 2010 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

With any luck, Christie's record will fall on its merits as his "solutions" hurt more than they help. Meanwhile, speaking of "optics," this post looks like a cheap shot to me, even during a slow news week.

Posted by: Ted Lehmann on December 28, 2010 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

By all accounts, Sweeney did a capable job and no harm was done by the absence of the Lt. Gov. and Gov. from the state during this weather emergency.

HOWEVER, the fact is that governing the state during an emergency isn't Sweeney's job, and he shouldn't have been put in the position of having to do the Governor's job. That's why New Jersey pays Guadagno. Given that the Lt. Governor has no other real function, it's inexcusable that she and the Governor are out of the state at the same time. She has no business taking a vacation at the same time as the Governor does. This is her fault for not coordinating her schedule with his, but it's also Christie's fault for allowing this to happen.

And, given that Christie is the elected Governor, there is really no excuse for his taking off on vacation with a storm impending. If there had been some kind of disaster resulting from the storm, it's his job to deal with it, not to delegate to other elected officials.

Posted by: DRF on December 28, 2010 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

I have heard the term "vacation," but I am self-employed, so I have never experienced one.

Posted by: Repack Rider on December 28, 2010 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

Repack Rider

I am also self-employed. My wife and I took a vacation last winter. We were gone for two weeks. We didn't recover until March.

For those of you who receive paychecks, when self-employed person like Repack Rider goes on vacation his income stops, but his regular bills don't, moreover vacations are expensive. In addition the work piles up and has to be addressed on his return. Of course, upon return regular work has to be done as well. A self-employed person might need two or three months hard work to recover from a two week vacation.

That said, my wife and I were talking about last winter's vacation on Christmas eve wondering if we could take another one in a couple of years.

Posted by: Ron Byers on December 28, 2010 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

The political adds just write themselves. I see a mass mailing of thousands of postcards from Florida with "wish you were here" from Chris Christie next election season.

aimai

Posted by: aimai on December 28, 2010 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

if only Booker could keep people from being shot in Newark...

Posted by: 9mm on December 28, 2010 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

This story bothers me. I recognize that Steve has pointedly noted that the Gov is entitled to a vacation and that any vacation in winter could end up happening in the middle of a storm back home. That said, writing it up this way reminds me uncomfortably of the stories about President Obama not rushing home last Christmas after the underpants bombing attempt. I don't like criticizing a politician based on the appearance of something, saying, it wasn't wrong but it looked bad. It seems too much like criticism aimed not at substance but just to score points.

Posted by: johio on December 28, 2010 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

Of course the New Jersey executives could take vacations. After all they left a Democrat in charge. I wonder if they would have both left the state if Sweeney was a Republican?

Nah, it wouldn't have mattered. If Sweeney was Republican all three would have gone on vacation without a care. All Republicans understand as a matter of Rush Limbaugh dogma that any pimply faced kid in the legislature's mail room could coordinate the government's response to a major storm.

Posted by: Ron Byers on December 28, 2010 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

"It seems too much like criticism aimed not at substance but just to score points."

Steve never does that.

Posted by: Lloyd on December 28, 2010 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

-There was a bit of karmic justice for Mr. Christie: it was 32F in Orlando this morning. The cold air followed him.-

Global warming cranking up...

Posted by: Al on December 28, 2010 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

No doubt the GOP damage control will include Obama's vacation in "exotic" Hawaii while the east coast freezes--imagine that?--in winter.

Ed Rendell is right, people. Grab a shovel. Check on your neighbor. Get acquainted with your kids. Read a book.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on December 28, 2010 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

-There was a bit of karmic justice for Mr. Christie: it was 32F in Orlando this morning. The cold air followed him.-

Global warming cranking up...

As they explained in Grade 8 Earth Science class, Al, there's a difference between weather and climate. Maybe you were out that day.

Posted by: Mustang Bobby on December 28, 2010 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

"Ed Rendell is right, people. Grab a shovel. Check on your neighbor. Get acquainted with your kids. Read a book."

Perhaps we can legislate this!

Posted by: 111 on December 28, 2010 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

"As they explained in Grade 8 Earth Science class, Al, there's a difference between weather and climate. Maybe you were out that day."

Try landing a private jet on time when things are busy...

Posted by: Al on December 28, 2010 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

As I said earlier, rule number 1 of vacation scheduling when working in an organization is you don't schedule your vacation for the same week as your boss' break. And if you're the boss, you co-ordinate with your subordinates to make sure there's coverage.

The campaign ads write themselves, but unfortunately Christie isn't up for re-election until 2013, so there's plenty of time for the voters to forget about this.

Posted by: Don K on December 28, 2010 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

The campaign ads write themselves, but unfortunately Christie isn't up for re-election until 2013, so there's plenty of time for the voters to forget about this.-

It'll keep liberals up all night though.

Posted by: Johnny C on December 28, 2010 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

Someone get down in Fl w/ a camera and get pics of him on the beach.

Posted by: MikefromArlington on December 28, 2010 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

Steve: "Again, just to clarify, some of this is just unfortunate timing for Christie. The governor and lieutenant governor deserve vacations just like everyone else, and by all appearances, the state response was unaffected by Christie's and Guadagno's absence."

If that's the case--that the state response was unaffected--then what's the problem? I'm no fan of Christie, but I'm tired of focusing on optics instead of substance. I don't think our government officials need to go to disaster sites to be effective; indeed, I think their time can often be better used to, well, actually deal with the crisis instead of posing for photo-ops.

I like Booker, but his personal snow shoveling, while a nice gesture, does practically nothing to help snow removal while keeping tabs on where resources are needed most might actually be a lot more productive.

I don't blame Bush for not visiting New Orleans until days after Katrina hit; I blame him for not having a coordinated plan in place when facing a clearly looming disaster. If the state is handling the snow as best as can be expected, then it should be irrelevant whether the governor is on-site. Some problems can be handled just as well remotely as in person. There are many reasons to criticize Christie, but this shouldn't be one of them.

Posted by: dsimon on December 28, 2010 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

False Comparisons

I've seen a lot of comparisons of Christie's failure to return to NJ to handle the ongoing snowstorm recovery with the President's response to the undie bomber.

Ridiculous!

The undie bomber was the crisis that didn't happen. It was one guy, whose scheme didn't work (and in fact, backfired disastrously). Once it was over, it was done. No need to jet back to DC to "handle" the non-event. What's to do? The guy was already in custody.

In contrast, a snowstorm and its aftermath actually require a hands-on effort, lasting days, maybe even weeks. Physical presence of a chief executive is actually helpful.

Obama made the right call in remaining on vacation. Christie made a bad call in not rescheduling his vacation - but, since he's a Republican, it's all good. Now he can blame the Democrats for the cleanup cost, and in another few months, nobody will even remember how much they needed being dug out.

Posted by: zandru on December 28, 2010 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

>>It seems too much like criticism aimed not at substance but just to score points.

>Steve never does that.

I think you (Steve) need to either (A) come out and say clearly that you think Christie should come back early, or that he shouldn't have gone in the first place, etc.; (B) acknowledge your ambivalence; or (C) leave this story alone. When I read your earlier post, it sounded to me like exactly the sort of weaselly writing you usually (quite rightly) call others out for.

Posted by: BattleCobra90000 on December 28, 2010 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

How could Christie skip Disney World after they reinforced all the rides especially for him?

Posted by: Roger Ailes on December 28, 2010 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK
Didn't Ronnie and W take vacations all of the time? Sometimes even during emergencies

Reagan and Dumbya took so much vacation that when they had friends over, they showed them slides of work.

Posted by: navamske on December 28, 2010 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Hey! Let's give Christie and Guadagno some credit. At least they didn't go "walking the Appalachian Trail" without notifying someone to take over in their absence. Notifying the substitute to take over in his absence is a most un-Republican thing to do.

Perhaps we should look at this vacation thing differently. Christie and Guadagno gave the people of New Jersey a vacation from their (incompetent) presence. They should be encouraged to extend their stay out-of-state.

Let's not forget that one of the privileges of being rich and Republican is that you get to occupy a high-prestige office and take credit for the work others do. You don't have to actually be in-state in order to get credit, of course.

Posted by: Rick B on December 28, 2010 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK
Someone get down in Fl w/ a camera and get pics of him on the beach.

Thanks, now I'm going to have to picture Ernest Borgnine and Ethel Merman on their wedding night in order to get that image out of my head.

Posted by: navamske on December 28, 2010 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

But Christie, like McCain, is a Villager favorite so he can do no wrong.

Posted by: neil b. on December 28, 2010 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, I gotta admit, this guy is a turd.

Posted by: Al on December 28, 2010 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

Personally, I'd rather have an officeholder who believes government can help people, than one intent on proving government can do nothing but hurt, in charge during a crisis.

Of course, the logical way to do such would be to actually elect such officials, but I suppose the latter type going on vacation whenever crisis looms is a good second choice.

Posted by: Tom Dibble on December 28, 2010 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

Al:

Who are you and what have you done with Al?

Posted by: jrosen on December 28, 2010 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think there is anything wrong with either Christie or his Lt. Governor going on vacation. I do think it's really stupid for them to go on one at the same time. After all, isn't that what the Lt. Governor for? To take the helm when the Governor isn't there?

Posted by: Elizabeth Modderno on December 28, 2010 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Liz, money quote from you. Above all they shouldn't go *at the same time*, and also regarding bad timing w.r.t. weather. Christie's an ass, but he was a smooth-talking breakthrough new conservative with Ideas (like Arnold, like Gi911iani, like McCain, ad nauseum) of the sort the Villagers are so horny for, so he just had to be The Man for NJ.

Posted by: neil b on December 28, 2010 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

This is about inept decision-making/planning.

Fair-weather Chris or his
Lt
Shoulda returned to NJ
He is showing a lack of awareness/concern

He deserves to pay politically

Posted by: Steve-A-Dor on December 28, 2010 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

I still see no problem with Christie not coming back. You could argue that he did his job when he insured that the state organization was in place to handle emergencies and the fact that the acting Gov implement those plans well speaks well for Christie's planning.

I would agree with those who say the gov and lt. gov shouldn't be gone at the same time - that's just routine good organizational planning. But that said, criticizing Christie for this is silly. It's criticizing him for not being there when things are working correctly. It makes no sense.

Posted by: Johio on December 28, 2010 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans don't work, they inherit. Work is for the peasants, now clear my driveway, I got a plane to catch.

Posted by: jsacto on December 28, 2010 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

But, but... if Gov. Asshole isn't there, who will fuck up the application for emergency federal aid?

Posted by: calling all toasters on December 28, 2010 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

gotta love this

http://blog.nj.com/njv_thurman_hart/2010/12/a_failure_of_leadership.html

A failure of leadership
By Thurman Hart
Published: Tuesday, December 28, 2010, 11:40 AM

New Jersey's Constitution, in its wisdom, dictates that someone in the state must always be ultimately responsible for its bureaucracy. Normally, that person is the Governor. But when the Governor leaves the state's borders, the Constitution devolves that responsibility upon another person. Until a few years ago, the first person in line was the State Senate President, which meant that anytime the Governor left, our state government became a parliamentary system*. Then we amended the Constitution and created the position of Lieutenant Governor to prevent that sort of problem. Now it takes the absence of both the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor for us to devolve back to the parliamentary system.

That is what we have right now. Chris Christie took his family to DisneyWorld for the holidays and Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno took hers to Mexico, so State Senate President Steven Sweeney, elected by fewer than thirty thousand people, is now simultaneously the leading officer of the State Senate and the state's chief Executive. Paul Mulshine sees this as evidence that Guadagno's political career is limited and sees plenty of mischief for Senator/Governor Sweeney to get into, if he so chooses.

But the problem is not Guadagno's. She was not elected Governor; Christie was. She is second-in-command, in military terms. That means that he does not clear his travel and vacation with her; she clears her travel and vacation with him. While authority can be delegated, responsibility cannot. And so it was Governor Christie's responsibility to ensure that the separated powers of the executive branch remained separated. Either he should have scheduled his family trip at another time, or he should have been a boss and told Guadagno that she could not travel at the same time as he was.

For someone who seems eager to exercise the power of the bully pulpit at public events; the reticence to exercise the legitimate powers of his office responsibly is puzzling, and alarming. It is a dereliction of duty and an abrogation of responsibility. Yes, the world will keep turning. But it isn't the Governor's duty to keep the world turning. It is his duty to ensure the administration of the state government and to run the executive branch. Especially in an emergency. Especially when there is almost a week's notice that the emergency is going to hit. It is inexcusable.

If the statewide problem is irresponsibility; then the local problem (here in Jersey City) is one of ineptitude. At this point, there are still streets unplowed. Officially, the city is blaming residents for abandoning their cars, causing streets to be impassible for snow plows. Jersey City officials find this unbelievable. And, I can attest to the fact that in the decade or so that I have lived here, I've never seen cars abandoned in a snowstorm.

But people don't just decide to leave their family car behind. While it is true that I've never seen Jersey City get this much snow, I've also never seen Jersey City wait so long to respond to a snow event. I live along an emergency evacuation route, so I'm used to seeing salt trucks and plows start as soon as the flurries hit. But at two o'clock on Sunday afternoon, when I made one last dash to the store, there was already an inch of snow on the street and no salt in sight. At midnight, when I went out to shovel the walk before going to bed, there was over a foot of snow on the sidewalk, but not a snowplow in sight (but the roads were well salted).

And, while we're at it, I've seen Jersey City actually remove snow from the streets with much less snow on the ground than we have now. And faster.

My assumption, at this point, is that Jersey City's delayed response to the storm is what caused the unprecedented number of abandoned vehicles. The problem then snowballed (yes, I know - bad pun) when the late-running snowplows couldn't get around abandoned vehicles. That, in turn, meant even more snow piled up and more cars were snowbound.

I don't know if the delayed response was because of budget constraints or not, but I'm willing to believe there is a legitimate reason for it. But whatever that legitimate reason might be, it shows that City Hall wasn't actually thinking about responding to the blizzard. That is also a failure of leadership. Whether it was because they were trying to save a few pennies or some other reason, their response was - and continues to be - inadequate. So far, I haven't read any reports of streets blocked so that emergency responders could not reach a fire or medical emergency. But that is simply relying on the better angels of fate.

But, as James Madison wrote, we have governments because men are not angels. And whether the problem is simply irresponsibility or incompetence, we should expect more from the people we elect to run our governments.

* A parliamentary system selects an Executive out of the ranks of the Legislature's majority party, rather than electing an Executive directly.

Posted by: Steve-A-Dor on December 28, 2010 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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