On July 1st, a New Jersey budgetary bill over state health insurer Blue Cross, had caused a budgetary stand-off which had reached such a boiling point that governor Chris Christie had declared a state emergency.
I have issued an Executive Order declaring a state of emergency to maintain the protection, safety & well-being of the people of NJ.
— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) July 1, 2017
Shutting down all non-essential state services, Christie had thrown a shot at key opponents of the bill, stating,
“If they send me a budget today the shutdown would be over. The legislature is deciding not to send me either budget.”
With a massive infrastructure of state employees, public parks, beaches and historical sites now out of commission, assembly speaker Vincent Prieto had stated that governor Christie had shut off communication channels and was only willing to deal if the bill he wanted was put back on the table.
The frustrated democratic representative went on to state, “This is almost like extortion.”
So, in the midst of a full blown constitutional crisis with a vita health care bill on the table to negotiate, governor Christie decided to do what any committed politician would in the circumstance: Visit one of New Jersey’s fine public beaches, and enjoy a relaxing day with his friends and family. Never mind that the safety and well-being of his constituents was at stake. Or that he himself had decided the budgetary crisis to be too vital to allow such frivolous services to remain open to the rest of the state on a beautiful fourth of July weekend. The governor had decided that the shutdown didn’t apply to him or his family.
It just so happens that veteran photo journalist Andrew Mills, more used to catching snapshots of criminals and fugitives, had decided to set his long lens on the Christie private residence.
“It wasn’t difficult to find him. There Christie was, with family and friends, on a long and empty stretch of beach near the governor’s shore residence, nobody else within a country mile.” States Mills in an article for nj.com.
From Mills’ account, it seems that governor Christie was well aware of the situation. Mills says, “In one photo, Christie looks me dead in the eye.”
Yet at no point does he seem to betray even the slightest bit of worry, at being caught in such a position.
Once the photos started to take off on the internet, the reaction was swift and merciless.
— Christian Hetrick (@_Hetrick) July 3, 2017
I'm sure most Americans agree with you. They just had to cancel *thier* family plans where you didn't.
— Jerry Dantana (@JerryDantanaACN) July 4, 2017
Chris Tierney, a New Jersey native who had made her way down to the beach as she does every fourth of July said, “I’ve never seen this beach this quiet.”
With the governor already experiencing record-low approval ratings of 15%, with scandals such as Bridgegate still plaguing his administration, the horrible optics of this fiasco were impossible to ignore. The governor just didn’t seem to care how he was being presented to the people of New Jersey.
He arrived back in Trenton on a helicopter paid for by the taxpayers, the same helicopter he had been using to shuttle himself back and forth to his private residence all through the shutdown. The first thing he was met with, after getting back, were questions regarding his day at the beach.
He responded to one reporter by stating, “I didn’t get any sun today.”
Maybe you could forgive that statement as a snap reply to a gotcha question, but later on Christie’s spokesman Brian Murray doubled down by joking, “Yes, the governor was on the beach briefly today talking to his wife and family before heading into the office. He did not get any sun – he had a baseball hat on.”
In case you had any doubts about an apology being on its way, Christie further stated regarding the incident, “That’s the way it goes. Run for governor, and you can have the residence.”
“I don’t apologize for it. I don’t back away from it.”
So as we celebrate this great nation’s ideals of justice and freedom, equality for all. Do remember that it may not apply to you unless you are the governor.
Today I signed my final balanced budget, delivering 2 full terms of unprecedented pension stability, fiscal responsibility & tax relief. pic.twitter.com/3oUmzENLNR
— Governor Christie (@GovChristie) July 4, 2017
At least the bill got signed.