Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 11, 2011

CHRIS CHRISTIE NOT EXACTLY TRUTH-ORIENTED.... As a rule, public officials should tell the truth. When an official prides himself on being even more honest than most, presenting himself as a bold truth-teller, bravely taking the lead in support of straight talk in a world dominated by cowards, that person has an even greater burden not to just make stuff up.

With this in mind, yesterday's New York Times piece on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) should do irreparable harm to the man's reputation.

New Jersey's public-sector unions routinely pressure the State Legislature to give them what they fail to win in contract talks. Most government workers pay nothing for health insurance. Concessions by school employees would have prevented any cuts in school programs last year.

Statements like those are at the core of Gov. Chris Christie's campaign to cut state spending by getting tougher on unions. They are not, however, accurate. [...]

Mr. Christie, a Republican who took office in January 2010, would hardly be the first politician to indulge in hyperbole or gloss over facts. But his misstatements, exaggerations and carefully constructed claims belie the national image he has built as a blunt talker who gives straight answers to hard questions, especially about budgets and labor relations. Candor is central to Mr. Christie's appeal, and a review of his public statements over the past year shows some of them do not hold up to scrutiny.

The piece quoted Brigid Harrison, a political science professor at Montclair State University, saying, "Clearly there has been a pattern of the governor playing fast and loose with the details. But so far, he's been adept at getting the public to believe what he says."

That may be true, but it's not exactly a defense. This only makes Christie an effective liar. There's a name for those who get the public to believe lies -- we tend to call them charlatans.

And in Christie's case, the record is extremely unflattering. The governor doesn't like unions, so he's lied about their benefits. Christie doesn't like to accept responsibility for his mistakes, so he's lied about blaming others for his own administration's errors. He doesn't like some of his previous campaign promises, so he's lied about his agenda.

Worse, some of this is an extension of a bullying personality. The NYT piece noted that "inaccuracies also crop up when he is challenged, and his instinct seems to be to turn it into an attack on someone else instead of giving an answer."

It's about using deception as a political weapon. Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the state Democratic chairman, said, "Everything is an assault, which makes it hard for adversaries to catch their breath and question the substance of what he's saying before he moves on to the next thing."

Christie's communications director said this kind of scrutiny -- caring whether a governor routinely lies to the public -- "splits hairs."

That's absurd. For one thing, we're talking about substantive areas of public policy in which the governor makes demonstrably false claims as a way to win arguments he'd lose on the merits. For another, Christie's whole persona is based on the notion that he's the most honest man we could ever hope to meet, all while he makes stuff up to get what he wants and push his opponents around.

To expect honesty from him about important issues and policies is not to "split hairs."

Steve Benen 2:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (23)

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Chris "Crispy Creme" Christis reminds me of an even fatter Jonah Goldberg, but with distemper.

Right now, he's pretty popular. A lot a big, fat bullies are.
For awhile...

Eventually, though, "Secaucau Fats" (my other name for him), will meet someone who will push back.
And make him look like the mean and ignorant asshole he really is.

And then all of those people who used to cheer on this bully will join in kicking him in the groin.

I just hope that there are still a lot of unions out there that require steel-tipped boots.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 11, 2011 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Everything is an assault...

Pretty much sums up the whole of modern conservatism. Enemies real and imagined are everywhere and must be vanquished. What's dangerous about Christie is that many see his attacks -- often vicious -- as charming rather than distractions.

Posted by: beep52 on March 11, 2011 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

I thought the Times article was rather weak tea, hardly of reputation-harming caliber. The euphemisms -- "not, however, accurate," "some of them do not hold up to scrutiny," "misstatements," "carefully constructed claims," and "exaggerations" -- I find irritating. I don't expect the Old Grey Lady to call Two Tons of Fraud a "fucking liar," but is it too much to ask that they characterize his claims as, "dishonest" or "untruthful?"

Posted by: hells littlest angel on March 11, 2011 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

I'm from NJ, and I take issue with the assertion that Fat Governor Krispy Kreme is "popular." We've been down this road before in NJ -- Christie Whitman was the Beltway's darling during the 1990s, even though she barely won both of her elections and turned out to be one of Bushco's many duds when she did make it to the national stage -- and we're just regretting that we don't have any recall provisions that would get Christie out of Trenton before 2013.

Posted by: Eisbaer on March 11, 2011 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

With all his blunt, brave straight talk, did Christie ever get around to apologizing to Pres. Obama for lying about the president's supposed role in New Jersey's blunder that cost the state $400 million in education funding?

I was glad to see this piece in the NYT given their recent spate of puff pieces on Christie. And well said, Benen!

Posted by: June on March 11, 2011 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

He's overweight... fat, you say? Then he must be a bully! Just like all blondes are really, really stupid! Don't start me on fat blondes!!

Posted by: chi res on March 11, 2011 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

I live in NY, and I didn't mean any sort of insult to NJ.
But, from the last poll #'s that I saw, he's still pretty far up there. Or am I wrong?

Posted by: c u n d gulag on March 11, 2011 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

While all here have our opinions of the Governor, the MSM still gets a "thrill up their leg" when he deigns to appear on their shows.

Foghorn Leghorn: "Presidential, I say PRESIDENTIAL, boy; pay attention!"

Posted by: DAY on March 11, 2011 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

The head guy over at NPR just resigned for saying something that is obviously true. So, I think some resignations are due here.

How DARE you tell the truth about Christie!

Posted by: Mark-NC on March 11, 2011 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: mark beat me to it on March 11, 2011 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

Not all fat people deserve to be made fun of for being fat. But a fat bastard who is always going on about how other people need to tighten their belts deserves to be mocked mercilessly.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on March 11, 2011 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

What is it with these new republican govenors? As a group you would be 100% accurate to call them a gang of scoundrels. Lying, power hungry, in some cases felonious american values hating demigogues. i've seldom agreed with republican political positions in my entire life but I've never seen a worse crew.

Posted by: Gandalf on March 11, 2011 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

The good thing about bullies is when they go down, they go down fast. It's not hard to imagine this will be the case with Christie.

Posted by: maxgowan on March 11, 2011 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

My jaw dropped when I read about the one new Rethug governor who has put in a bill to allow him to take any town in his state, fire all the elected officials of that town and hand the town over to a corporation to run. What is going on in this country, we elected people who are crazy or they are so evil it cannot be imagined.

Posted by: js on March 11, 2011 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

Okay, "demonstrably false claims"??

C'mon Steve - let's just be concise.

He LIES. Like the rest of his party. Gandalf is right - they are a bunch of scoundrels. Or worse, a bunch of evil orcs.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on March 11, 2011 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

But a fat bastard who is always going on about how other people need to tighten their belts deserves to be mocked mercilessly.

And it never hurts to perpetuate a few nasty stereotypes while you're at it!! Hell, who sez teabaggers get to have all the fun!!

Posted by: chi res on March 11, 2011 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

I really don't believe a person's height, weight, or fashion sense has any relation to their politics. The name calling is immature and a turn off. It also weakens your arguments. It seems like you don't have enough intellectual arguments so you are resorting to name calling.

The Washington Monthly has long been one of the best magazines / sites for intelligent discussion of issues and the comments usually reflect this. Let's hold ourselves to a high standard.

Posted by: A Fat Man on March 11, 2011 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Better look out. He might sit on you.

Posted by: walldon on March 11, 2011 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure Christie's ability to lie and do so without shame has caught the eye of the Koch Bros and other Republican/Conservative king-makers. That's probably why the crook is mentioned as potential presidential material. The problem with guys like Christie is that his lies from the past are likely to resurface pretty quickly the further he pushes his considerable bulk into the national spotlight. You know.....tangled webs and so forth.

Posted by: T2 on March 11, 2011 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

I despise Christie and I'm from New Jersey, but his lies are not going to bring him down. Maybe if he were to be caught lying about something serious such as why he "lent" so much money to a woman he "worked" with, but lying about political things like the budget is not going to provoke widespread outrage. Especially in a state that essentially has no media coverage of politics.

I'm not saying Christie is popular or will win re-election, because it will be close one way or another and there is a lot to play out, but liberals shouldn't get their hopes up that he is doing anything Walker-ish.

Posted by: paulf on March 11, 2011 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

Better look out. He might sit on you.

OMG! Did think of that one all by yourself?!? You are just too clever!!

Posted by: chi res on March 11, 2011 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

For more coverage of the Big Guy, go to

Posted by: Coco Pazzo on March 11, 2011 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

I "love" the GREAT WHITE WAIL(yes a double pun on his weight and that he is always moaning about things "others" did and never owning anything).

Just like Whitman before him, he is taking a "funding holiday" from NJPERS (public employee pension plan) and then using its terrible funding status as an excuse to cut pensions.

Sound like a familiar ploy? It has been used over and over, cut taxes on the rich and corps, then OMG we have no money! So we need to cut teachers pay and school support.

I live in a very RED town, they love him here. They hate the teachers unions here as well. Yet they scream like a stuck pig when we have to raise our local property taxes because we are getting less and less from the state, and that $400m snafu with the education funding was on purpose if you ask me. Just one more instance of being able to say "OMG we have not money, so cut schools!" (oh and btw, lets give a bunch of money away on the chimera of school vouchers.....)

Posted by: joyzeeboy on March 11, 2011 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK



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