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Chris Christie Keeps Shooting from the Hip But Just Shoots Himself in the Foot

The governor has a tendency to say what he thinks, but it’s not clear if he thinks about what he’s said

christie
Credit: Governor's Office/Tim Larsen
Gov. Chris Christie (left) and Brig. Gen. Michael L. Cunniff, head of the New Jersey National Guard, in 2014. Christie recently told the general to slim down.

Gov. Chris Christie has never been one to mince words. Last week, the state’s chief executive, driven in his pursuit of the GOP presidential nomination, chided the New Jersey Assembly for not paying enough attention to state business. Last month, he warned Hillary Clinton that he plans to grill her about emails in a debate, overlooking legal issues he faces at home. Finally, the portly governor ordered the leader of the New Jersey National Guard to lose weight.

Let’s take it from the top. Christie last week blasted the New Jersey Assembly for not focusing on state business.

“The fact is they don’t want to interrupt their precious campaign time for a minute,” the governor told a breakfast meeting of business leaders in Hanover.

Later that morning, the governor boarded a plane to Iowa in pursuit of his presidential ambitions. So far this year, Christie has traveled out-of-state on at least 145 days. Yet to hear him tell it, he’s the only one minding the Statehouse.

“I’m the Maytag repairman,” said Christie. “Sit in my office in Trenton, all alone.”

The New Jersey governor likes to shoot from the hip -- but those shots often ricochet back to wound his credibility.

While most of the Assembly’s 80 members seek reelection in November, they can generally be found in their legislative districts. Meanwhile, Christie is fixated on New Hampshire, where he plans to hold 100 town meetings before the February primary.

To add injury to insult, New Jersey taxpayers have spent more than $1.3 million for the travel costs of the state police troopers who accompany Christie on his trips away from the Garden State.

Another political boomerang may be Christie’s recent attack on Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton over her use of personal email to send and receive classified information while secretary of state.

“She’s never been cross-examined by a prosecutor like me,” boasted Christie on CBS’s “Face the Nation” last month. “And she’ll be examined by a prosecutor like me on the other end of the stage, and she won’t be able to stand up to the scrutiny.”

Meanwhile the governor’s office faces a question of whether it obeyed a Mercer County Superior Court order to turn over its own email list – a “secret” directory of media contacts and VIPs, assembled at taxpayers’ expense.

What Christie’s staff turned over to New Jersey Watchdog contained only half of the information described in court papers.

Instead of 2,500 names, the list has only 1,229 entries.

Judge Mary C. Jacobson will hear arguments this week on whether or not the record was altered before its release.

Christie also played the heavy last month when he issued an ultimatum to the head of the New Jersey National Guard to shape up or ship out in 90 days.

The governor was reacting to a Washington Post report that revealed the Pentagon had reprimanded Brig. Gen. Michael L. Cunniff for being overweight and skipping mandatory fitness tests.

“I have struggled with weight control my entire adult life,” said Cunniff in a prepared statement. “However, I do recognize that military members and leaders, like myself, are held to a higher standard.”

Apparently Christie does not lead by example. A photo of Christie and Cunniff during a troop review in 2014 suggests the governor is also losing the battle of the bulge, despite his well-publicized efforts to slim down.

A version of this story has been posted to the New Jersey Watchdog website.

New Jersey Watchdog is a public-interest journalism project dedicated to promoting open, transparent, and accountable state government by reporting on the activities of agencies, bureaucracies, and politicians in New Jersey. It is funded by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a nonprofit organization.

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