Confronted at an outdoor press conference in the Jersey shore town of Belmar by a man holding a placard reading "Get Sandy Families Back In Their Home. Finish The Job," an evidently perturbed Chris Christie responded
I want to thank you very much. I got the picture. I read it. OK? So yeah, you do yours, too, buddy. So we know -- yeah. We know. We know.
Now, listen, you all know me. So if we`re going to get into a debate here today, it`s going to get very interesting and very fun.
Yeah, I understand. So I`ll be more than happy to have a debate with you any time you like, guy, because somebody like you doesn`t know a damn thing about what you`re talking about except to stand up and show off when the cameras are here.
I`ve been here when the cameras aren`t here, buddy, and done the work. I`ve been here when the cameras weren`t here and did the work.
So, I`m glad you had your day to show off but we`re the ones who actually did the work. So turn around, get your 15 minutes of fame,and then maybe take your jacket off and roll up your sleeves and do something for the people of this state.
Now, listen everybody, what we need -- yeah, good. And there`s been 23 months since then when all you`ve been doing is flapping your mouth and not doing anything. So listen, you want to have the conversation later?
I`m happy to have it, buddy, but until that time sit down and shut up.
A couple of days later, Chris Matthews discussed the incident with Republican and former Maryland governor Bob Ehrlich, who maintained
Chris, you know what? It`s not an act. And you know him and I know him well. He`s a friend of mine. No neutral opinion here. This is Chris, and that`s his personality. That`s his demeanor. It`s very popular in New Jersey. It`s generally popular in the Northeast.
The issue is going to be whether that particular personality -- and by the way, it`s cathartic for those of us who`ve been public office because sometimes, those of us who have been on the short end of a guy giving you a hard time or heckling you really appreciate what Chris is doing.
But this is Chris. It`s unvarnished. It is what it is. He`s going to take this national, and we`ll see how it plays outside the Northeast. But it is no act. It is not scripted by any means.
There is at least one person who disagrees with the former governor. That would be Christopher J. Christie himself. Last week on the "Today Show," Matt Lauer asked him "That kind of response is something your staunch supporters love. It makes other people queasy. Are you going to have to control that side of your personality to be seen as presidential outside the rough-and-tumble world of New Jersey politics?"
The governor replied
First of all, you're assuming I wasn't controlled. And you know, I sat and took it for a while. And then other people, the hundreds of people that were there, deserved to hear what we had to say that day. That person had their say. I'd sat and listened to it. It was time for them to sit down. And I'm not going to change, Matt. This is who I am.
Though Christie could have argued that he will be seen as "around the country as presidential, he instead practically conceded- nay, boasted- that he is less spontaneous than scripted. Obviously inaccurately (video below), the governor claimed "I'd sat and listened to it" when he actually had been standing the entire time, a significant- though convenient- untruth because it falsely portrayed the governor as under siege by a rude interloper.
Still, we ought to be pleased that Christie- if he is being honest- intends to run for President as he is, rather than tempering his approach to be diplomatic, polite, or reasonable. That contrasts with Rand Paul, the born-again multiculturalist. Cited as a libertarian, he is edging ever closer to the Repub establishment and as an opponent of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 who defended his opposition only last year, he now says Republicans "have to show up" and "have to say something" to black voters.
Nonetheless, while the media happily focuses on Chris Christie's aura of (belligerent) authenticity, there is little attention paid to the man, Jim Keady, described here as a "thelogian, activist, educator," elected official and founding director of Educating for Justice, Inc. Following his confrontation with the governor, Keady was interviewed (video here from MSNBC via Politics USA) by Chris Hayes, who described him (more contemporaneously) as a "small business owner" who "works with FinishtheJobNJ.com,a coalition focused on Sandy recovery." Keady, who grew up in Belmar, told Hayes
When the hurricane happened, I actually took a month off from work, dropped everything and volunteered to help clean out people`s homes. It actually reached a point within a day or two, the borough gave me a borough dump truck and I was running all the cleanup crews all over town.
However, the focus should not be on Keady any more than it should be on Chris Christie's disposition. As Keady noted, of all the recovery money sent to New Jersey in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, "only 20 percent of those dollars have gotten to the people, all right? Of the $1.1 billion, $219 million has gone out, that means that the governor and his staff in Trenton are sitting on $800 million."
Lest we suspect an outrageous accusation by a leftist determined to bring the governor down, Hayes explained the following evening
... those numbers were worth a fact check and it turns out, they were right on target. As you can see here, on the aforementioned recovery dash board, New Jersey has only awarded about half of the total $1.1 billion for reconstruction, rehabilitation, elevation, and mitigation program.
And as of today, just $222 million of those funds have made it into the checking account of New Jersey residents affected. So by our calculation that means the state has handed out just 20 percent of the $1.1 billion allocated to the program.
There being a God in heaven, there is more trouble ahead for the bellicose governor of New Jersey. American Bridge- 21st Century has made a public records request to the OPRA officer of the New Jersey Office of the Governor for "a list of all trips to which Christie was referring- specifically trips to the New Jersey Shore to work on Sandy recovery, where no 'cameras'- from the media or the Governor's office- were in attendance to record the event."
Chris Matthews and other folks are wondering how Chris Christie's shtick will play in Peoria or in Iowa. They might wonder, too, how a guy can run for president when he has failed completely as governor (a review of the Governor's office modus operandi, here), especially in the most urgent problem he has faced as a chief executive.