Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Statesmanlike Conduct

Even Rush Limbaugh apologized.

Oh, he didn't apologize for resorting to sexism some 70 times, or calling employer-paid contraception a "welfare" program, or for accusing Sandra Fluke and her colleagues of having continuous sex. or for constant hate-mongering for over two decades.     But at least he did apologize for improper terminology, having used the words "slut" and "prostitute" to label the Georgetown University law student and activist.

"Idiot" is not quite as damning, and more generic, than the aforementioned terms.     Still, most normal people, tempted to call someone an idiot, would likely to do sin private and select as a target someone other than a former Navy SEAL.

But not Chris Christie who, we were informed during his ultimately successful bid for the New Jersey governorship, certainly does not "throw his weight around."     No, not Mr. Christie.

The latest episode of the New Jersey governor figuratively throwing his weight around occurred at a town hall meeting in Florence, NJ on March 8, when Governor

Christie called on William Brown, a 34-year-old law school student and veteran from Mt. Laurel, who explained, calmly at first: "I know that all my friends in the military no matter what state they’re from respect that fact that I go to Rutgers. It’s also true that none of my friends in the military no matter what state they’re from have ever heard of Rowan."

Brown, a Democrat who ran an unsuccessfully for Assembly last year, says he’s a Navy Seal who served in Iraq. As he testified before the Rutgers Board of Governors last month, he argued the Christie-sanctioned plan to rebrand the South Jersey campus under the Rowan name would rob students of opportunities afforded by Rutgers’ reputation. The Republican governor began to explain that current students would still graduate with degrees from Rutgers.

But Brown shouted from audience: "What about my son? What about my neighbors? What about my friends?" 

"Listen we’re not going to get into a debate here, ok?" Christie said. "I listened to you. You’re unhappy about it. You don’t want Rutgers to merge with Rowan under any circumstances. Well here’s what going to happen. Rutgers is going to merge with Rowan and here’s why –"

"It’s not a merger," Brown continued, still interrupting.

"I sat here and listened to your story and your position — excuse me — without interrupting you," Christie said, while Brown kept it up with: "It’s not a story, it’s the truth."

The exchange continued with Christie’s amplified voice booming from the speakers and Brown yelling up at him from his seat in the back row of the fire hall.

"Do you want to hear the answer or no? Do you want to hear me answer or don’t you? Because I’m not going to — I’ve heard you," Christie said, still with Brown interrupting. "OK, next question."

An audience clinging to every word dissolved into applause, following by a quintessential Christie sendoff: "Let me tell you something after you graduate from law school you conduct yourself like that in a courtroom, your rear end is going to be thrown in jail, idiot."

"I’m a combat veteran Navy Seal, how’s that?" Brown shouted back.

The Online Dictionary defines "idiot" as, primarily, "a foolish or stupid person" and, secondarily, as "a person of profound mental retardation."

Mr. Brown appears to be no idiot, though he is profoundly elitist.      There are reasons to question (not necessarily to oppose) the merger of the Camden (south Jersey) campus of Rutgers, The State University with Rowan University, formerly Glassboro State College.     Karoli at Crooks and Liars notes "there is the question of union contracts, and what happens to workers covered under those contracts due to a merger. Thousands of educators, hospital workers, and food service workers are covered by union contracts in New Jersey and yet the union has not been given a seat at the table to discuss the impact of mergers on their contracts."      Of less concern to the Governor and state legislators (who may have to approve the merger) should be Brown's argument "friends in the military no matter what state they’re from have ever heard of Rowan."     Mr. Brown is under the unfortunate, simplistic assumption that Rutgers University, circa 2013, is a first-class institution while Rowan University, circa 2013, is a second-rate institution.     Similarly curious is his inference that his friends, however courageous for volunteering for military service, are experts in the field of assessing academic excellence.

Still, it is, and should be, Mr. Brown- not "idiot" Brown.      Unfortunately, the Governor was in no mood yesterday when, approximately three miles from his earlier remark  

“He acted like an idiot. He’s an idiot. I don’t have any regret about it at all,” Christie said Monday during a news conference after touring a regional high school and meeting with students in a financial literacy class...

“I allowed him to talk for two, two-and-a-half minutes to lay out his position. I sat there and tried to answer. Every time I tried to answer, he yelled and started to interrupt. He did it four different times,” Christie said Monday. “If you want to get into with me, I’m happy to get into it with you. But if you give it, you’re going to get it back.”

Christie said he’s willing to entertain divergent viewpoints but insists on respect. He said Brown went to the town hall with a political agenda “to try to make me look bad.”

A felony has been committed and the perpetrator must be prosecuted and punished.      A citizen of New Jersey and of the U.S.A. has tried to make a politician "look bad."     This is something which never occurs in the 50 states or the District of Columbia and must be ended immediately.    

It is particularly telling that a politician who specializes in demeaning constituents would complain that they "try to make me look bad."   It is, however, confirmation that one of Mitt Romney's leading surrogates can (cliche alert) dish it out and not take it, a classic attribute of a bully.

William Brown, even if he were an "idiot," does not serve the Governor of New Jersey.     Governor Chris Christie serves the people- even idiots- of the State of New Jersey.      Calling a constituent an idiot probably does not fall under anyone's definition of public service or qualify anyone as a public servant.

The employer of practically anyone toiling in either the public or private sector would not tolerate his/her employee publicly calling anyone an "idiot."     The individual soon would be an ex-employee, or at least subject to discipline or retraining.

And that employee would not be considered for the second highest elected office in the world's only remaining superpower.    But Chris Christie has been, and still is being, considered as a vice-presidential prospect this year and as a presidential prospect in 2016 (assuming a GOP defeat in November).  

Anyone can say something stupid and/or offensive.    But when, confronted by an egregious mistake, he fervently defends his outrageousness, that guy should be disqualified from national office.

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