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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

What do tea party Republicans and some liberal Democrats have in common?

They think New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is a moderate, and they’re both wrong.

Christie, a Republican, is more proof, as if proof were needed, that in American politics, style matters more than substance.

Middle-of-the-road politicians are supposed to get along with folks of the other party. They don’t, for example, settle a political score by causing an epic traffic jam on the country’s busiest bridge.

Back in September, two officials of Christie’s administration unexpectedly shut down two of three access lanes on the Garden State side of the George Washington Bridge, which spans the Hudson between Fort Lee, N.J., and Manhattan.

The Fort Lee mayor, a Democrat, wouldn’t endorse Christie for reelection. Thus, some New Jersey Democrats suspect that the lane closings were retribution and that the governor was behind it.

The two officials have resigned. But Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., wants the federal transportation administration to look into the snafu.

Of course, Christie is blustering that he’s innocent of any funny business. But it’s hard to believe his underlings acted on their own. And on Christmas Eve, The New York Times published a story (“Accounts of Petty Retribution Reinforce Christie’s Bullying Image") about other alleged instances of the governor exacting political revenge.

“In almost every case, Mr. Christie waved off any suggestion that he had meted out retribution,” Kate Zernike wrote. “But to many, the incidents have left that impression, and it has been just as powerful in scaring off others who might dare to cross him.”

Meanwhile, Tea Party Republicans have had their knickers in a twist over Christie since his famous post-Sandy, pre-election stroll with President Obama last fall. No doubt, Christie was thinking 2013 and improving his second term fortunes in a Blue State.

Did the Tea Partiers and the rest of the Christie’s-really-a-RINO, or Republican-in-name-only crowd, not hear him say he voted for Mitt Romney anyway?

No doubt Christie’s perambulation with the president endeared the governor with a lot of rank and file Garden State Democrats. Their votes added to his big win. Elsewhere, more than a few Democrats are gushing with happy talk – or at least hopeful talk -- that Christie is the anti-Cruz.

Christie and Cruz agree on most issues. The difference is Cruz’s rhetoric matches his record while Christie’s doesn’t always.

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The governor and the whole tea party kit and caboodle mostly sing from the same page of the hymnbook. It’s just that the tea party sings more shrilly.

For example, Tea Party Republicans think taxes and teachers’ unions, are satanic, or close to it. They oppose raising the minimum wage.

Christie has taken a meat axe to funding for public schools. He lavished big tax breaks on big business. He vetoed a bill to raise the state’s minimum wage.

Christie claims the New Jersey Education Association has turned the state’s schools into “failure factories.” (Never mind that overall Garden State students do well on those national math and reading tests.)

Oh, Christie famously smiled and schmoozed with President Obama as TV cameras rolled. He even hugged the president.

But there is plenty of other evidence that the governor is about as cuddly as a prickly pear cactus. Just before he was reelected, Christie was caught on tape bullying a teacher when she dared ask him a question on the campaign trail. Christie is a teddy bear only when he gets his way.

At the same time, most tea partiers – especially those of the Jesus-loves-me-but-He-can’t-stand-you persuasion -- think abortion is murder. Christie the “moderate” opposes abortion except in the case of rape or incest or if the mother’s life is in danger. Maybe that’s not enough to suit some tea partiers, but Christie says he’s “pro-life,” a buzz word among abortion foes.

While tea partiers hate abortion, they love guns. More than a few of them pack heat and National Rifle Association membership cards. Liberals took heart a while back when Christie signed 10 gun bills into law.

Nonetheless, the National Rifle Association only opposed two of the measures and claimed that two more were pro-gun. The other six, according to the gun lobby’s website, “have a negligible impact on gun owners and were not opposed.” Christie vetoed, or refused to sign without important changes, three bills the NRA strongly opposed.

It remains to be seen if Christie can bloviate his way to the GOP nomination in 2016.

Maybe he’s not a Republican who is overtly of the Obama’s-a-gay-Kenyan-born-Islamo-Socialist persuasion. But Christie-the-moderate is a fictional character, make that caricature. His tiff with the teacher shows he can be meaner than a junkyard dog. He’ll look like just another partisan political hack if it comes out that he ordered the traffic snarl on the George Washington Bridge to get even with the mayor.

No matter, Christie’s record shows he’s another public employee union-buster in the mold of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Christie campaigned for Walker in 2012, when the Dairy State chief executive, bankrolled big-time by the Tea Party-tilting Americans For Prosperity and other right-wing, fiercely anti-union groups, survived a recall challenge.

Berry Craig

"You see, what I’ve been able to do is give Scott and the people of Wisconsin a little preview of what good conservative [italics mine] governance can do for states," the Huffington Post quoted Christie.

Berry Craig