Milton Bass: Big man Christie keeps shrinking



Republican Gov. Chris Christie thought he could run down those political roads forever, presidential hopefulness on one, rounding up backing from Democratic mayors on two, raising big political funds on three, and most important of all, covering over the pit in his state's pension obligations.

As in the classic "Seinfeld" episode, when asked how he is doing, the governor can only answer, "Not too well. Not too well."

New Jersey has been in a parlous state through many governors now and the present one is typical. The state is recovering more slowly than its neighbors from the recent economic downturn, it hasn't recovered half the jobs it lost while the nation has forged ahead, and its housing industry is a shambles.

The Republican governors' association has asked him twice to resign from his board chairmanship, the first time five months ago when his minions shut down a key entrance to the George Washington Bridge and now because of the state's economic frailty.

Christie has always been one of those bluff, hearty men who think they can avoid troubles by shaking a large arm at the difficulties, while shouting angrily at the heavens.

It has worked in the past but not this time around. He speaks angrily rather than softly and the water just runs off the duck's back.

It is true that the present predicament is not wholly due to his own bad choices but to previous governors who kicked the pensions under the carpet. He could even things out a bit now by slashing education and health care but that would only push to the forefront a new batch of naysayers.

Christie also knows he could fix things if pensioners would provide a larger share of the health payments but knows that this is improbable. But he has kept making optimistic predictions about the state's economic progress and then been forced to cut the budget three years in a row.

There was a time when Chris Christie virtually had a lock on the Republican nomination for president of the United States in 2016, running against the Democrat's own fairy godmother, Hillary Clinton. That seems unlikely now. And pretty soon, someone will be standing upright discussing the contents of her laundry basket.

Milton Bass is a regular Eagle


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