As a Democrat – and a fairly liberal one by the standards of where I live – it isn’t that often that someone on the right really knocks my socks off. Let alone a Republican!
Yet that is exactly what happened on August 25th. From the comfort of my own living room I watched Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey patiently but firmly set a hysterical critic straight at a town hall meeting. The exchange can be seen on YouTube.
I am among those who watched Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker do battle with the public employee unions earlier this year with more than a passing interest. My mother has recently retired after 36 years in the classroom and I am aware of the teaching profession’s tendency towards hidebound self-preservation. And I confess to wishing on more than one occasion that I lived closer to Madison so I could camp out on the floor of the Capitol there, in solidarity with the protesters.
Yet, Gov. Christie did something that I see so rarely from a public figure. Instead of matching the lady shout for shout and accusation for accusation, he calmly explained in detail why he had felt it necessary to reduce the pay and benefits enjoyed by teachers in his state – by a large margin more generous than anything my mom ever got. He responded not with barbs, but with data, in order to make his case. You read it here first: I came away impressed.
Upon some reflection, I think I can put words to why Gov. Christie impressed me. He didn’t seem to be pursuing some ideological agenda. His sole ambition was to be a faithful steward of his state’s public resources. And if you ask this Democrat, these are the kind of Republicans we need, and the kind of Republicans whom the Tea Party, for all its bluster, has failed to produce.
Rep. Paul Ryan may swear a million times that he truly doesn’t object in principle to Medicare, that he only wishes to spare this country from fiscal ruin with his now infamous budget; I refuse to believe him because of the other major features of his plan: large tax cuts for those at the top, and preposterously high predictions of future growth.
Gov. Christie makes no lavish promises. He grimly states his purpose, and gets on with the job. No noisy rallies or placard signs required. A great many so-called “conservatives” in this country ought to take note.