@ Drumthwacket, on the second leg of my ‘Meet & Greet the Candidates’ tour *: After my serendipitous coffee chat with Hillary a few weeks ago, I’m determined to get an audience with another oft-maligned character in the vetting of 2016 presidential candidates. This will take some real creativity on my part … After rummaging through my Mary Poppins’ sized bag, I settle on my invisibility cloak. ‘Excellent! This should get me past the guards at the governor’s mansion!’
Trust me … This is not going to be all fun & games; I’m totally serious about learning as much as I can about our next crop of candidates. And to prove it: Drumthwacket is the honest-to-God name of the governor’s mansion in New Jersey. Many states’ official governors’ residences go by “Governor’s Mansion” or “Governor’s Residence.” There are a few different ones, such as Terrace Hill in Iowa, Mahonia Hall in Oregon, and Washington Place in Hawaii; Arizona, California, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island don’t even have one official residence. You might think Drumthwacket is the name of a military commander, or a Native American word, but neither is correct; it’s Scots-Gaelic for “wooded hill” and was so named in 1835 by Charles Smith Olden, its original owner and former governor. For the record, Governor Christie and his family do not reside at Drumthwacket — which is not even located in the state’s capitol (Trenton). But, I’ve learned to trust my instincts, and something tells me the Governor will be at Drumthwacket today. Other reports indicate I should be riding the coattails of Kentucky Senator Rand Paul or following Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s Tweets & Snapchats, but here I am … So, here we go.
I park near Princeton University and walk about half an hour to the 10-acre site. Confident in being undetected, I stride through the wrought iron gates, across the expansive, greening lawn, up the steps, past the pillars, and through the front door. The roped-off staircase is my cue to look for Christie on the second floor. I quickly peek into several rooms as I roam the long hallway, and I soon spot him at his desk in a small library, hunched over a thick stack of papers. I settle into a high-backed leather chair across from him. As he signs bills, I write him a letter:
Dear Governor Christie … Or, may I call you ‘Chris’?
What’s happened to you? About two and a half years ago, when I was on a (real) road trip through the southeast and heading north along the Jersey Shore — a comfortable few days ahead of Superstorm Sandy, I might add — you were ‘Da Man,’ the Golden Boy of the Republican Party! A lot of people, including me, weren’t all that excited about the 2012 election between Romney and Obama. The buzz was about the next election … four years away. Even in Canada. After I left the New Jersey/New York area, I spent a few days with family in Toronto, and we were very spirited in our predictions of it being Hillary vs you, Chris. Hmmm, interesting to think about presidential candidates going by their first names rather than their last, isn’t it? Some consider it disrespectful; others feel it’s more personable. Which, I think, is one of the reasons you were so popular a few years ago … You were considered likable, a straight-shooter, and authentic. Like Teddy Roosevelt. Even today, people often refer to him by his first name, and they think he’s way cool.
But, about your realness … First, there was the politically-incorrect hug, and your party members couldn’t cast blame upon you for Romney’s defeat fast enough. Ironic, isn’t it? Because a hug is a very personable, authentic gesture — especially in a dramatic, emotional time such as Sandy’s destruction of your beloved state and the pain it was causing your people. And then, there’s the weight issue — even tho’ you’ve lost as much as 100 pounds since your lap-band surgery. Good for you, Chris! It’s not an easy thing to do. I’ve been wanting to lose 15 pounds for about a year now, and sometimes it just seems like too much work and sacrifice. But hey, enough about me! I’ve read that your weight issue has dogged you since before the 2012 election, but since you hugged President Obama and since Bridgegate — dirty politics for sure! — the media’s attention on your weight is something I think they should be ashamed of. It’s sophomoric! Yes, there’s been some responsible coverage about excessive weight and serious health issues; nobody wants to elect a president they fear dying of a heart attack or being seriously impaired by a stroke. I really hope you can keep it off! Anyway, getting back to the media’s juvenile behavior regarding your humanity … yet a second hug brouhaha, all because your football team won a key playoff game. Sheesh! Can we, please, just talk about something important?!
Quickly, because I notice your stack of papers is shrinking, and I want to slip this on your desk before you take to the campaign trail:
- How do you plan to get out from under Bridgegate? It’s a good thing an independent investigation by Democrats proclaims your innocence in the closure of one of the world’s busiest bridges, and it appears your only crimes — in this regard — were the hiring of a knucklehead to be your deputy chief of staff and the appointment of another idiot to the Port Authority. I guess they figured they were being loyal to you by making a mess for the mayor who didn’t support you? But now, a lot of people are questioning your judgement and management skills, and a federal investigation of the mess has raised questions of unethical behavior in other ways, such as your administration using Port Authority money to beef up New Jersey’s budget so that you could give gifts to mayors in return for their endorsements. True, the words ‘political’ and ‘scandal’ seem to go hand-in-hand … There’s Hillary, who has her ‘Emailgate’ to bear, and voters will probably be reminded of Marco’s questionable use of credit cards and Dr. Rand’s dubious ophthalmology certification, and even Jeb will have to answer questions about the ‘bad boys’ he’s worked for. Considering we’re more than 19 months from the next election, time may prove to be your friend.
- What’s up with New Jersey’s sinking economy? A record number of your citizens are moving out — many because the Garden State’s job growth is poor. You’ve neglected paying retirement benefits. And, your state has one of the worst credit ratings in the nation. You can’t continue to blame this sinking ship on the previous Democratic administration; you’re in your second term. It’s looking like you might want to focus more attention on running your state than running for president. Especially if you want to use rationale like: ‘A governor would make a better president than a senator.’
- What on Earth were you thinking when you used Sandy relief funds for tourism ads?! You say they’ve helped save the Jersey Shore… You chose one marketing firm over another — spending $4.7 million instead of $2.5 million — because your family would be featured (in the more expensive campaign, by the way). Homeowners and businesses have become disenchanted with you because they haven’t received promised relief funds. And, it appears the tourism ads ended up being your 2013 gubernatorial re-election ads. (Some serious head-shaking going on here, Governor.)
- What kind of Republican are you really? These days, probably one without a party … for all the above-mentioned reasons, plus you opted to expand Medicaid under Obamacare; you’ve supported gun control; you’ve wanted to help illegal immigrants become citizens; you’ve said climate change is real; you’ve declared President Obama “a great ally” in education reform; and, you’ve steered away from branding all Muslims as extremists. I’m sure there are Republicans who would agree with you on these and other centrist issues, but how many would risk party allegiance? Especially now?
Which brings me to my agenda, Governor … I think you’re ‘Da Man’ who could bring about some real change in our political system! Federal indictments aside (ha ha … I seriously hope that doesn’t happen to you), you built a large fan base in a Democratic state and across the nation — with Republicans even — because you weren’t afraid to be yourself. I come here today as an Independent — I’m in the majority by the way, and those who declare themselves as Republican are nearly at an all-time low. So, jump ship! Pull a ‘Teddy Roosevelt’ and start your own party and transform American politics, like Teddy and his Progressives did in 1912. More and more Americans are sick and tired of politics as usual and believe that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans represent them. The time is right.
Be your own man, Chris … That’s why people, myself included, liked you in the first place. Stop trying to please your Republican friends. ‘Cause according to the numbers, you’re better off pleasing your American friends.
* ‘Meet & Greet the Candidates’ tour: a flight of imagination.