It’s not so uncommon for two columnists to address the same issue on the same day. People tend to talk about a limited number of subjects at a time, after all, especially in political circles. But it’s not often you see a pair of columnists write not just about the same thing, with the same opinion of it, on the same day, but also both start their pieces by referring to an MTV reality television show.
If you think that Snooki getting socked in the kisser during an episode of “Jersey Shore” epitomizes life in the Garden State, you haven’t been paying attention. The best reality show on television today isn’t running on MTV. It’s in Trenton, where Gov. Chris Christie is offering the voters a dose of Reagan Republicanism—with a Jersey twist.
My native New Jersey has long been a national punch line, a status recently reinforced by MTV’s hit show “Jersey Shore,” featuring Mike Sorrentino, the guido extraordinaire nicknamed for his impressive abs (they’re “a Situation,” apparently).
Recently, though, I’ve been holding my head high, thanks to Jersey’s new governor, Republican Chris Christie, a man who hasn’t seen his abs since the “Born to Run” tour — if ever. In the 2009 race, our last governor, Jon Corzine, ridiculed Christie’s weight, then left him with the gruesome political challenge of closing an $11 billion deficit, the largest gap per taxpayer in the U.S.
As Sorrentino put it in another context, “This situation is indescribable. You can’t even describe the situation that you’re about to get in.”
That’s not the only similarity between their columns. They both have the same view of Governor Christie’s tough talk. McGurn writes:
If he is to survive the headlines about budget cuts and pull New Jersey back to prosperity, Mr. Christie knows he needs to put the hard choices before the state’s citizens, and to speak to them as adults. He’s doing just that.
Christie’s running a bold experiment: treating voters like adults, telling them what’s needed to get out of their predicament.
Two men writing the same day using an MTV reality series about young and all-too-stereotypical Jersey partiers to make a point about raising the tone of political debate—it’s quite a coincidence. That said, both do a service in letting the rest of the country know what Governor Christie is trying to accomplish. New Jersey is facing one of the country’s biggest fiscal messes, and he’s trying to clean it up with what McGurn calls Jersey-style Reaganism. McGurn’s piece has a nice collection of quotations from talks given by the governor explaining why he’s getting serious about what McGurn notes is “a $10.7 billion gap on a total state budget of $29.3 billion” by cutting back to “a smaller government that lives within its means.” To give one example, he responded this way to critics of his budget cuts:
The special interests have already begun to scream their favorite word—which, coincidentally, is my 9-year-old son’s favorite word when we are making him do something he knows is right but does not want to do—’unfair.’ … One state retiree, 49 years old, paid, over the course of his entire career, a total of $124,000 towards his retirement pension and health benefits. What will we pay him? $3.3 million in pension payments over his life, and nearly $500,000 for health care benefits—a total of $3.8 million on a $120,000 investment. Is that fair?
He’s not popular among the teachers’ unions—he wants instructors to accept a one-year wage freeze and complains that local governments and school boards are hiring at high levels while the private sector is shedding jobs during a recession. Healy refers to a memo sent by one union, but doesn’t say just what was in it:
Dear Lord this year you have taken away my favorite actor, Patrick Swayze, my favorite actress, Farrah Fawcett, my favorite singer, Michael Jackson, and my favorite salesman, Billy Mays. I just wanted to let you know that Chris Christie is my favorite governor.
Those are rather uncivil words to come from the people that teach New Jersey children. Governor Christie must be doing something right.