New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has swiftly become a superstar in the political firmament. His stands for the taxpayers and against wasteful government spending have exhibited the type of tough decision-making people have been waiting for among our politicians; his forceful stands against the public unions and the stranglehold they have over our lives and futures have become YouTube hits. He is the real Governator, not like that pretender in California.
Governor Christie has been touted as a future GOP candidate for the presidency. But Barack Obama knows of only one kind of preemptive war: against those who threaten his throne. Therefore, Christie has become a target of Obama and his team of minions.
The latest attack? The U.S. Department of Transportation (headed by Obama's political ally from Illinois, Ray Lahood) now wants to make New Jersey repay $271 million in federal funds already spent on a proposed Hudson River tunnel that Christie scrapped because of spiraling and never-ending cost overruns. The feds want the money now and will start charging "vig" soon.
The US Department of Transportation is demanding that Trenton repay $271 million in federal funds already spent on the proposed Hudson River commuter tunnel -- a project Christie scrapped because of spiraling cost overruns.
Adding insult to injury, DOT insisted that Jersey pay the bill within 30 days -- or face hefty interest charges and late fees and have NJ Transit reported to bond-rating agencies.
Not so fast, says Christie.
"It's not surprising that the same federal transit agency that had no clear way to pay for cost overruns of a project already hurt by poor planning and inequitable cost-sharing is relying on bureaucratic power plays to wring even more money out of New Jerseyans," he said.
Christie notes that other states that have similarly pulled the plug on federally funded transportation projects have not been forced to repay money that's already been spent.
The strict 30-day deadline reeks of petty vindictiveness aimed at a governor who's increasingly being spoken of as a 2012 GOP presidential candidate.
Or, as Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg nastily observed, it would be a shame if "taxpayers ultimately have to foot the bill for the governor's mistake."
This federal overreach is not the first orchestrated by the Obama team against Christie. A few weeks ago, the Department of Justice (so lax and incompetent in the New Black Panther Party voter rights case and terrorism trials) focused its ire on Christie when it created a pseudo-scandal regarding Christie's spending of taxpayer money when he served as a federal prosecutor.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has elevated his national political profile as a conservative cost-cutter since taking the state's highest office, used taxpayer money to stay at luxury hotels while serving as a federal prosecutor, according to a new Justice Department report.
Christie exceeded the federal government's set lodging rates by as much as $242 per night on 15 occasions between 2007 and 2009, states the report by Justice's inspector general.
He spent $2,176 more than his budgeted rate over the course of 23 trips, of which only eight stays were booked in compliance with the federally allotted travel rates.
Christie's expenditures came up during last fall's gubernatorial campaign. At the time, Christie defended his actions, saying he had no other option.
"There are only a few rooms at each hotel that are reserved for government rate," Christie told the Asbury Park Press last year. "If you got them, you got them. If you didn't, you didn't. I wouldn't have slept in the park."
He further explained and defused these charges when the Department of Justice dredged them up again last month -- after they had already been aired and shot down during Christie's earlier campaign for governor (see, for example, "Is Obama DOJ Targeting Chris Christie?). The weakness of these charges is evident since they have all but vanished (except for the fevered swamps of the left-wing blogosphere) ever since they were aired by the DOJ. Conversely, the Department of Justice has failed in its quest to stonewall inquiries regarding its suspect handling of the New Black Panther Party case. That gives rise to the question: which scandal is faux, and which scandal has legs and a basis to investigate? Obama and his team have not yet used up all the arrows in their quiver. (And lest we forget, he once "joked," in a Nixon-like way, that he would sic the Internal Revenue Service on the president of the Arizona State University when that university refused to grant him an honorary degree -- a bit of very un-presidential rhetoric that earned him a well-deserved rebuke in this Wall Street Journal editorial.) New Jersey's educational system is struggling -- laid low partly by the teachers' unions that Chris Christie has challenged (verbally on the YouTube hits that have built his reputation across the nation and politically, when he called upon citizens to use votes on budgets to take a stand against wasteful school spending, particularly in districts where unions refused to freeze wages). The head of one of the teacher unions sent an e-mail blast to its members asking them to pray for Christie to die (some of that old Sopranos spirit still lingers in New Jersey).
Educational achievement among New Jersey's children has been in a free-fall, despite massive increases in educational spending by Christie's predecessor, Democrat Jon Corzine, who freely spent taxpayer money in a bid to win support from politically potent teachers' unions. The parlous state of the schools in Newark prompted Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to give that city $100 million for its schools.
New Jersey tried to become one of the finalists selected for the Obama administration's Race to the Top education grant program. Had New Jersey won the competition, the state would have been in line for increased federal help to repair its schools. The state's application was rejected because of a minute error made in the form -- the type of error that normally would have escaped bureaucrats' wandering eyes. Was New Jersey rejected because the Obama administration wanted to derail Christie's political career? Was Christie the target because he dared to take on teachers' unions, one of the most power special interests of the Democratic Party? Would Barack Obama sacrifice the future of children for political payback or to hurt an opponent of the teachers' unions? (The answer to the latter was yes in the case of cutting off federal funds for charter schools in the District of Columbia.) Political payback is the typical modus operandi of Barack Obama, whose finishing school was in the rough-and-tumble world of Chicago politics. He has no compunction over taking out political opponents by any and all means. Obama projected an image during the 2008 campaign of a man who wanted every vote to count. However, his history belied this image. He engaged in political red-lining (i.e., gerrymandering) to redraw districts in a way that benefited his political prospects. He also betrayed a promise to a former political mentor, Alice Palmer, when he ran against her for a state senate seat in his first political campaign:
In his first race for office, seeking a state Senate seat on Chicago's gritty South Side in 1996, Obama effectively used election rules to eliminate his Democratic competition.
As a community organizer, he had helped register thousands of voters. But when it came time to run for office, he employed Chicago rules to invalidate the voting petition signatures of three of his challengers.
The move denied each of them, including incumbent Alice Palmer, a longtime Chicago activist, a place on the ballot. It cleared the way for Obama to run unopposed on the Democratic ticket in a heavily Democrat district.
"That was Chicago politics," said John Kass, a veteran Chicago Tribune columnist. "Knock out your opposition, challenge their petitions, destroy your enemy, right? It is how Barack Obama destroyed his enemies back in 1996 that conflicts with his message today. He may have gotten his start registering thousands of voters. But in that first race, he made sure voters had just one choice."
Obama stepped on a lot of bodies as he climbed toward the Oval Office.
Obama's Senate campaign was marked by fortuitous (for him) releases of damaging personal information regarding his chief Democratic primary opponent, Blair Hull, who was ahead in the polls. As the primary voting day approached, somehow information was leaked to the Chicago Tribune that Hull's wife had been physically abused by him. This was widely considered by many in Chicago to be the handiwork of Obama's campaign strategist-henchman, David Axlerod, a former journalist and employee of the Tribune. Axelrod had interviewed for the same position in Hull's campaign, had gotten wind of those allegations, and confronted Hull about them. Hull all but admitted their accuracy ("there is no paper on that," meaning charges had not been filed, but the smoking gun was inherent in that statement), so Axelrod passed on the job offer and instead went to work for Hull's opponent, Barack Obama.
This was not the first time during Obama's march to the Senate that reputations would be destroyed so Barack Obama could win. His Republican opponent, Jack Ryan, was an attractive candidate -- a wildly successful investment banker who gave up his career to teach inner-city children in Chicago schools. Ryan was not a politician, but he thought he could bring his principles to fruition by becoming a senator. His idealism did not stand a chance against the forces working to elect Barack Obama. Once again, damaging personal information was released with exquisite timing toward the end of the campaign (pried out of closed divorce proceedings) -- this time regarding Ryan's desire for his then-wife to visit risqué clubs in Paris with him.
Despite the fact that these records were closed to protect not just Jack Ryan and his former wife (Hollywood star Jeri Ryan), but also their child, the media -- no doubt prompted by the Obama campaign -- feasted on the political corpse of Ryan, who was compelled to leave the race to be replaced by a hapless carpetbagger (trivia question: who was that man? Answer here) from out of state who stood no chance against Obama.
Tellingly, David Axelrod has morphed from campaign strategist to the top domestic policy adviser to Barack Obama, with an office as close as one can be to the Oval one. Once a consigliere, always a consigliere.
Why the digression into Obama's political history?
History is revealing of a person: his principles (or lack of them), his strategy, and his tactics. Obama is not as gaffe-prone as Joe Biden, but he does have them when unplugged from the teleprompter. Among the most revealing happened on the 2008 campaign trail when he threatened his opponents with a line from The Untouchables (the movie about Capone's reign in Chicago): "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun."
The journalist Michael Kinsley coined a definition of a gaffe: when a politician tells the truth by accident.
Chris Christie should be forewarned and forearmed. Obama does not like to be challenged, and he enjoys two sports. One is basketball, and the other is hunting and bringing down political challengers.
Barack Obama has Christie in his sights. Obama will use all the dirty tricks in his bag to kill the New Jersey governor's political career in its tracks.
Ed Lasky is news editor of American Thinker.