Using harsh terms to attack his critics has been a regular feature of Gov. Chris Christie’s 15 months in office, and Democratic officials, wary of his and the voters’ wrath, have usually offered only a muted response.
But this week, when Mr. Christie, a Republican, used violent imagery in talking about a Democratic lawmaker — a widowed grandmother, to boot — Democrats saw an opening, criticizing him en masse and demanding an apology.
The episode began at a news conference on Wednesday, when the governor brought up State Senator Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat from Bergen County, who had accused him of hypocrisy. Mr. Christie said Ms. Weinberg was the hypocrite, asking reporters, “Can you guys please take the bat out on her for once?”
There was not much outcry at first, but Ms. Weinberg drew sympathetic news coverage and Mr. Christie’s remark lighted up comment pages on news Web sites. Then, on Thursday and Friday, Democrats issued a flurry of statements scolding the governor.
The Assembly speaker, Sheila Y. Oliver, called the governor’s statement “a new low in public discourse.” Stephen M. Sweeney, the Senate president, called it “offensive, indecent and so far beneath the standing of a public official it boggles the mind how the governor could even think of uttering it.”
Michael Drewniak, the governor’s press secretary, said it was clear that Mr. Christie was simply accusing the news media of being too easy on Ms. Weinberg, and that “ratcheting it up beyond that is partisan politics at its worst.”
Mr. Christie’s instinct when criticized is generally to counterattack, not explain himself. He has labeled the teachers’ union “political thugs,” accused other officials of lying, and charged teachers with “using students like drug mules” to carry political messages.
The governor’s fight with Ms. Weinberg was about “double dipping” by New Jersey elected officials, which he wants to abolish. Two weeks ago, it was reported that the Essex County executive, Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr., had begun collecting a government pension while still collecting his salary. Mr. DiVincenzo, a Democrat, is a powerful figure and one of the governor’s most outspoken allies, and both have demanded reform of an unsustainable pension system.
On April 3, The Star-Ledger published an article stating that Mr. Christie does not criticize friends like Mr. DiVincenzo, though he berates others for similar practices. Ms. Weinberg was quoted in the article saying, “there’s obviously double standards.”
The next day, she revealed that she, too, had started collecting a government pension while a legislator. She could have begun years earlier, but did so only after losing most of her savings in the Bernard L. Madoff debacle.
On Wednesday, Mr. Christie referred to her quotation in The Star-Ledger, and said she had done the same thing as Mr. DiVincenzo.
“Can you guys please take the bat out on her for once?” he asked reporters. “She’s the queen of double standard.”
While Ms. Weinberg and Mr. DiVincenzo took advantage of the same law, their cases are quite different. She is 76, an age at which Social Security, 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts require people to collect pension payments, whether or not they are working. He is 58, not old enough to collect Social Security, or to withdraw money from any retirement accounts without penalties.
Mr. DiVincenzo is paid more than $153,000 a year for his full-time position, and his pension is almost $69,000 a year. The salary for Ms. Weinberg’s part-time job is $49,000, and her pension is about $36,000.
Christie wants to make this "bat" thing about double dipping and hypocrisy.
But notice how he doesn't accuse his guy DiVencenzo - who is also double dipping and receiving his pension of $69,000 a year even as he pulls in $153,000 a year in salary - of double dipping and hypocrisy.
Nope - he goes after the 76 year old lady who is required by law to collect her pension even as she works her job for $49,000 a year.
Then when he suggests the press "take a bat to her" for the double dipping, he says the phrase is just an expression and shouldn't be taken seriously.
Let me ask this:
If someone in Trenton said, "You know there's too much fat and waste in the governor's mansion and somebody needs to go in and cut that fat shit out of there with a surgical tool!", would the governor think those words were "just an expression"?
More importantly, would the police?
The hypocrisy of many politicians is legendary, but the hypocrisy of Chris Christie is mythic and larger than life.
This is a man who took more financial benefits than any other US attorney when he served in that position, bilking taxpayers for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and yet he is always pointing out how other people are bilking the government out of money.
But never his fellow Republicans, of course.
And frankly, even a rudimentary investigation into his background shows how fast and loose he plays with the truth.
Christie had better watch out - when you live by harsh words and rhetorical violence, you often die by those same things.
Christie is still riding fairly high nationally among Republicans for his relish in taking on unions and teachers, but in Jersey his approval is at 52%.
A few more of these incidents, coupled with a few more snowstorms where Christie abdicates his responsibility to go to Disneyland and a few more Bret Schundler things, and he may find himself out of a job - no matter how much impunity he seems to think he has for his words and his actions.