Both Perry and Christie prosper because they appeal to the worst tendencies of their state's cultures. Perry embodies the thick-headed, religiously fanatical, violence prone, anti-modern hateful undercurrents in Texas culture, whereas Christie, who's "tough talk" amounts to douchebaggery, represents the Garden State's relative tolerance and celebration of (white) men who act like complete assholes. Just as Perry could never get elected outside of Texas, a guy like Christie wouldn't last in my home state of Nebraska, where people expect politicians to act with civility and a lack of negativity. However, conservatives there are more than happy to see their id being unleashed in another state.
If you look at Christie's behavior in public, it is amazing that it is being celebrated rather than excoriated. Case in point: yesterday he was visiting storm-damaged sites in southern New Jersey, and told reporters that he only wanted to hear questions on the storm relief, not on other issues, such as the budget. When a reporter dared to ask him a question about whether he was going to call an emergency legislative session, Christie asked the reporter "are you stupid?" called him "an idiot" and then stormed away from the news conference. This fits in with a tendency on his part to call names and humiliate those who oppose him. Last week he called the Democrat who heads the Senate Budget Committee an "arrogant SOB." He also likes to have town hall meetings where he calls those who oppose him "idiots" and have them booted out, even if they are former Navy SEALs.
You can contrast this with president Obama, who was actually interrupted in the middle of a statement by a reporter who acted in an unprecedentedly rude fashion, but managed to finish the event and upbraid the reporter without resorting to name-calling or temper tantrums. Of course, as a black man, the president would have been crucified, rather than being called "tough." Christie is a schoolyard bully let loose in the political arena, and the news media love it so much they are like the toadies egging the bully on as he beats on other kids. As is usually the case in bullying and mobbing situations, those who want to say something are cowed into silence lest they get targeted by the bully and his mob.
In my case, this is personal. When he targets my wife and her hard-working colleagues, I get positively steaming mad. I could cite any number of instances where he has attacked teachers and insulted them, but I will refer to one of the more outlandish. Two years ago, in the midst of local school elections, Christie accused teachers of indoctrinating students and using them as "drug mules" to pass information on to their parents to tell them how to vote. I have been bullied a few times in my life, both as a child and as an adult, and I will be damned if I will allow it to happen again to me or another member of my family. I have never canvassed for a political campaign in my life, but I will volunteer for whoever runs against Christie.
Christie isn't just a bully, he's a hustler. He came into office claiming to reduce corruption, close the budget deficit, and grow the economy, but contrary to what you may have heard on Fox News, Christie has been a tremendous failure in fulfilling these promises. Here are a few examples:
- He touts a "New Jersey comeback" since he has come to office, but in fact, New Jersey has the fifth highest unemployment rate of any state in the country. Because of his cuts to the state employment rolls, he is personally responsible for much of this.
- He claimed to sweep out corruption, but he has given sweetheart contracts to run privatized halfway houses to a company who used to lobby for, and which evidently has let criminals escape and commit mayhem, and to terrorize fellow inmates.
- Christie has also engaged in heinous lies. He effectively killed a project to build a new train tunnel to New York City, which is absolutely necessary because the current century-old tunnel can no longer handle the volume of traffic. (I can attest from personal experience that there are delays each and every day because of this.) Christie destroyed the tunnel project, claiming it would be too expensive, but he intentionally mis-stated the amount of money New Jersey had to pay, and was really cannibalizing the project to get money for highways instead of raising the gasoline tax.
- While he wrecked a project that many of his constituents need to get to work every day claiming "tough economic times," he has let state money flow freely the Xanadu shopping mall to be built at the Meadowlands. That's right, he would rather give money to private developers to build a mall than to build a public tunnel. I am sensing a trend here...
- Although he rails against wasteful spending, last summer Christie used a state police helicopter to fly him to his son's baseball game, and then had a car drive him all of 100 yards from the landing site to the baseball field.
- Although Christie claims to want to cut taxes, he recently rejected property tax relief and earned income tax credits and has tried to end urban enterprise zones which lower sales taxes in certain areas. Of course, these forms of tax relief benefit the less well-off, a group of people Christie appears to regard in contempt.
- Last but not least, Christie has always talked about "tough choices" to reduce the deficit, but his budget contains significant shortfalls masked by a fraudulent state income projection. Oh yeah, he also called the non-partisan budget analyst who discovered the shortfall "Dr. Kevorkian of the numbers."