If Chris Christie’s TV commercials talking opioid addiction with addicts make you feel all warm and grateful, be aware that as much as his new obsession is about helping, he’s also out to fix his legacy problem. He wants us to think of him as a helper, someone who cared about his constituents’ problems. But this is not a good man.
Where was Christie’s empathy when he cut funding for women’s health services – repeatedly?
Where was his sense of responsibility when his inner office risked the lives of commuters for his political retribution?
Where was his decency when Team Christie strategized how to use 9/11 artifacts as prizes in early primary states when Christie ran for president?
Gov. Chris Christie is on a kick to rehabilitate his image. He had a mighty fall, from swaggering heights to Bridgegate’s (still secret, but likely) unindicted co-conspirator, a belly-flopped presidential campaign, and a 16% approval rating in the state where he felt comfortable bullying anybody he wanted.
Republicans seem to take a special interest in maladies that touch them personally. Ronald Reagan banned research on fetal tissue because the tissue came from abortions. Then he got Alzheimer’s and Nancy Reagan became the tireless advocate for stem cell research harvested from embryos. Dick Cheney, trying to walk both sides, with one daughter gay and the other one homophobic and politically ambitious. Former pot-head Jeb Bush for jailing, not treating drug abusers, even as his own kid was getting treatment. It’s a thing.
And the thing for Christie? An old friend who died in a West Orange motel, alone, washing down a bottle of Percocet with a bottle of vodka. When he talks about it, Christie makes sure to tell people his friend was a super-successful guy, as if to distinguish his class of friends from the low-lifes he probably thought addicts were until he gave a crap about one. So, here’s Christie. Trump finally found a job for him; it’s not vice-president or attorney general but Christie’ll take it; head of a national “commission” to address the spike in addition to opioids. This matters to Christie so much he’s not hogging the TV commercials the way he did after Hurricane Sandy. That’s big.
Don’t get me wrong. Addicts matter, and saving their lives should absolutely be well-funded public health policy and on the priority lists of the politicians who rep me. I’ve never touched a drug, but here in Hunterdon, healthiest county in NJ, I know two people who barely made it out of addiction alive. So do you, probably, no matter where you live, or maybe they weren’t so lucky. The problem is real. Some of the Christie commission’s initial recommendations look solid – with Trump most eager to partner with big pharma for solutions – though Christie’s blown through deadlines both in the interim report phase and the final report, which was due last Sunday but won’t be delivered till Nov. 1, earliest.
I wish Gov. Christie well in solving the opioid crisis. Maybe he gets a new job out of it, since he’s not going to be a sports jock or president of these United States any time soon. But I won’t forget who this guy’s been for us for 8 years, nor the Democrats who enabled Christie, and rode his coattails hard while the riding was good.
I have much higher expectations for the next governor, Phil Murphy, and hope he remembers what a real governor can do. I expect him to continue any good work of Christie’s tackling NJ’s opioid addiction problem. And I expect much, much more.