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Christie's Illusion of Bipartisanship

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Everyone wants the Jersey Shore to succeed after Hurricane Sandy's devastation.
Gov. Chris Christie has worked in a bipartisan manner on this issue to benefit the state -- and continues to do so, as President Obama's visit on May 28 showed. Almost alone among Republicans, Christie chastised his own party and House Speaker John Boehner publicly for delaying the vote for Sandy relief, saying, "Shame on Congress."
The media have fixated on painting Christie as a bipartisan politician. While he has been rightly bipartisan concerning Sandy relief and recovery -- which could help him in a presidential race -- his overall record is staunchly conservative.
Now, after the death of New Jersey Democratic Senator and icon Frank Lautenberg, the governor eulogized that the two had "battles over philosophy and the role of government."  Christie had earlier called Lautenberg "an embarrassment" and "a partisan hack."  To choose a temporary successor, Christie said, "I do have a preference of one party."  He has selected Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa, a Republican.  
From the moment Christie began his term, he embarked upon a deliberate war against labor unions. In 2011, he signed legislation that increased obligations by teachers, police, and other public workers for pensions and health care while removing their ability to collectively bargain.
He appeared on television bragging that his state leads the nation in public layoffs because "government was bloated at every level. In New Jersey, we're not trying to break the unions; the unions are trying to break the middle class." In other words, he was trying to break the unions.
Christie's budgets cut social and economic programs. He included $500 million in cuts to education that the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional. "The harm being visited is not some minor infringement of the constitutional right but a real, substantial, and consequential blow to the achievement of a thorough and efficient system of education" in the state's 31 poorest school systems, wrote Justice Jaynee LaVecchia, a Republican appointee, in the majority decision.
Christie's budget also eliminated after-school education for more than 15,000 low-income children and cut $21 million in elderly health services.
Between June 2010 and June 2011, six family-planning clinics were closed due to budget cuts from the governor. Women from Burlington, Camden, Cherry Hill, Millville, Bayonne, and Dover relied on these clinics. He vetoed four bills that would have expanded family planning. He also vetoed equal-pay legislation, saying it was "senseless bureaucracy," and opposed legislation that would eliminate gender wage discrimination in public contracts.
Using the word bipartisan to describe Christie is highly misleading with his work with the legislature. He vetoed more than 150 bills passed by his Democratic-led legislature. His vetoes blocked bills to allow marriage equality, raise the minimum wage, and increase taxes on those making more than $1 million a year. He also twice vetoed a bill to make financing easier for consumers to rent or buy foreclosed properties as affordable housing.
The governor is also a part of the Republican team attempting to suppress the vote nationwide by minorities, youth, and seniors (i.e. mostly Democrats), having vetoed a bill last month to allow early voting.
But make no mistake, Christie is very politically savvy. He recently announced his support for the Medicaid portion of the president's health-care law -- a switch from his previous opposition -- stating that Obamacare would be good for New Jersey because it will stabilize hospitals, benefit low-income families, and save New Jersey $227 million in the first year. The fact of the matter is Christie is up for re-election in a predominantly Democratic state. This move is a political necessity. It could pose a problem, however, in a national election in 2016. He will have to twist into as many pretzels as Romney did over the health issue in 2012.
It is clear that the media will try to push the narrative of Christie's bipartisanship. According to the National Journal on May 28, Christie is conducting "winning politics." However, his record tells a far different story. It is time we evaluate politicians for their merits and records, not on the illusion of bipartisanship through photo ops and headlines.
Originally Published in The New Jersey Star-Ledger, June 7, 2013
By Robert Weiner and Nakia Gladden
Robert Weiner, a Paterson native and Blair Academy graduate, is a former spokesman for the Clinton White House and U.S. House Government Operations Committee. Nakia Gladden is policy and research analyst at Robert Weiner Associates.
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