News broke today of Gov. Chris Christie’s remarks – with audio – claiming he protected Sheila Oliver’s position as Speaker with the promise of GOP votes if she couldn’t get Democrats, in exchange for her support to post the Christie-Sweeney-Oliver pen-ben bill and shepherd votes. His remarks came at a meeting in Colorado Christie took pains to cover up – failing to disclose it, its hosts (far-right oil billionaire Koch brothers) or even his out-of-state travel that day. No matter which account you believe – if either – what we learned today confirms something is very wrong in the way decisions are made in New Jersey.
The 4 hour-plus time lag before an Oliver denial of Christie’s story concerns me. If Christie’s story was bullshit, you’d expect her to say so immediately. First, Oliver’s late-day statement – a humdinger:
“The assertions that Gov. Christie has made, they are outright lies. Outright lies. I am beginning to wonder if Gov. Christie is mentally deranged,” Oliver said. “At no time did I ever, ever pick up the telephone, call Gov. Christie and ask him to quote ‘save my leadership.’ ” The governor was engaged in a chest-thumping vaudeville entertainment session in front of the Republican donors, she said. “I don’t expect to call him at all,” she said. “I think it’s disgraceful.”
Mentally deranged, she calls Christie. This story may unleash a war of words between the GOP governor and the Democratic Speaker, a breaking of the confederacy between them that has infuriated so many Democrats. And it may mean that the compliance Christie counts on from Oliver may be cracking as Oliver attempts to save herself from political embarrassment. Though, it’s impossible to miss that Oliver expended her energy distancing herself from political allegations from the Governor; she still hasn’t said anything worth reporting about her role pushing pen-ben, in defiance of core principles. The possibility that Oliver may now wiggle out from under Christie’s thumb and begin to lead as she was elected to do, keeps us from calling for her ouster from leadership.