Chris Christie: A Conservative Myth - Part 6
Lately, it has become fashionable among conservatives and Republicans nationwide to lavish effusive praise and encomiums upon Governor Chris Christie as the “Conservative Savior” of New Jersey - and this trend has begun to mushroom into a fervent cult of pseudo-personality that is already calling for him to throw his hat into the 2012 Presidential campaign ring.
Myth #6: Gov. Christie opposes the Healthcare Reform Act - popularly known as “Obamacare” - because it is unconstitutional and will destroy the best health care system in the world.
Here are the facts: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act - otherwise known as “Obamacare,” - was passed by the U.S. Senate on December 24, 2009, by a vote of 60-39 with all Democrats and Independents voting for it, and all Republicans voting against it. The bill passed the House of Representatives on March 21, 2010, by a vote of 219-212, with all 178 Republicans and 34 Democrats voting against it.
During that time and several months before it, the bill was the subject of heated debate - not in Congress so much as among the American people. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted “…we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.”
The “fog of controversy” to which Mrs. Pelosi referred was the firestorm of opposition to the bill on the part of Americans who took the time to actually read all 2,000 pages of it - more than six months before Congress voted on it - and voice their opposition to it in the form of Tea Party rallies and angry town hall confrontations. One did not have to be an attorney or a physician to understand the implications of the proposed legislation: it was a nightmare. Hence the unprecedented public outcry against it.
On March 23 of this year (barely two and a half months after the “Conservative Savior” of New Jersey was sworn into office as its 55th Governor but nine months after opposition to Obamacare began), state Attorneys-General Bill McCollum of Florida and Ken Cuccinelli of Virginia filed lawsuits against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, claiming that the provisions of ObamaCare mandating that all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage were unconstitutional.
They were joined in the suit by the attorneys-general of twelve other states (by November, the list would grow to nineteen other states including Arizona, Indiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Dakota, Alabama, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Georgia, and Alaska - two-fifths or 40% of all the states in the Union). The suit was also joined by the National Federation of Independent Business and three individuals, Mary Brown, Kaj Ahlburg and Matt Sissel.
New Jersey was conspicuously absent from the list. When questioned about this on March 24, Gov. Christie responded:
I haven’t gotten briefed yet on what we think the ramifications are. It’s a 2,500-page bill. We would like to act in a way that is informed. And from my perspective, given the transition and that I haven’t been living with this issue for a year, I want to make sure I get fully informed by my attorney general and by my commissioner of health, which I’ve asked for them to give me advice. When they do, then I’ll consider whether or not we need to take any legal action.
I have enough to do up here. I have to examine how this health care legislation affects the health care system in the state of New Jersey and whether or not it’s in our state’s best interests, and then I’ll decide whether we need to take any legal steps to try to protect the interests of the people of the state. But in terms of advising our congressional delegation on how to vote on this stuff, that’s up to them.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot…Obamacare was front page news when he was sworn into office in January and was still a hot topic of discussion (to put it mildly) three months later. The Governor’s staff had ample time to peruse any number of critical digests of the bill - if not the bill itself - and become at least as informed as the average Tea Party activist. He certainly didn’t have to be a constitutional scholar to understand that the legislation was flatly unconstitutional and that, as Chief Executive of the State of New Jersey, he was responsible for defending its tenth amendment sovereignty against precisely this sort of intrusion.
The Governor’s statement was all the more puzzling in light of the fact that just twenty days after taking office, Attorney-General Paula Dow joined the attorneys-general of Massachusetts, Vermont and Maryland in support of the University of California, which was being sued for religious discrimination by the Christian Legal Society. One is compelled to ask why, with all the problems plaguing New Jersey at that point in time, did Paula Dow commit a considerable amount of time and resources to joining a lawsuit that only tangentially affected New Jersey instead of focusing that time and those resources on patently unconstitutional legislation that threatened the liberty of every citizen of New Jersey?
As for the Commissioner of Health, Dr. Poonam Alaigh, we noted in Part 3 of this series that she was a major contributor to the campaign coffers of Democrat Rep. Frank Pallone - the man who brags that he is the author of the Obamacare legislation.
While the Governor’s statement puzzled those who were drunk on Chriservative Kool-Aid; it was a no-brainer to those of us who were not.
In a July 25 interview on ABC’s This Week (two months after he said more time was needed to “study” the Obamacare legislation), here is what Gov. Christie had to say:
The essence of Mr. Christie’s argument hadn’t changed since March:
1). “What are the chances of winning the lawsuit? With limited resources in New Jersey, I’m not going to throw good money after bad.”
2). What will be the effect of this 2000 page bill be on the state of New Jersey? The Attorney General and his Commissioner of Health are looking into the practicality of a lawsuit and he will decide to take action based on their findings.
By October 18, however, the Governor’s tune had begun to change:
Q: Do you support repealing health care reform?
A: Yeah, I did not favor Obamacare in the first place. I thought it was too big a grab by the federal government for our health care system. It should not have been voted on in the form that it was in the first place. Business folks are very concerned, and they’re sitting on a lot of capital because they’re just not sure of how much more cost the government is going to load onto them not only through Obamacare, but through the higher taxes the president is talking about.
Finally. It only took ten months for the Governor to arrive at a conclusion most thinking conservatives reached over a year earlier. Perhaps he was influenced by the proceedings of the “November Is Coming: Take Action Seminar” held on October 23 in Clark, NJ that featured Virginia Attorney-General Ken Cuccinelli:
Even if we assume that New Jersey’s share of the lawsuit cost a hundred times the $1,000 figure given by Mr. Cuccinelli, would the Governor forsake an opportunity to defend New Jersey against an unconstitutional intrusion by the federal government because it costs as much much as the average annual salary of at least ten of his office staffers?
Perhaps he was influenced by the ruling of Florida federal judge Roger Vincent that gave twenty states a “green light” to proceed with their lawsuit against Obamacare. So much for his concern about the chances for winning. At this point one doesn’t have to be a constitutional lawyer or a Vegas bookie to figure that the odds are pretty good the lawsuit will prevail when - not if - it reaches the U.S. Supreme Court
It is now the middle of November and we have yet to hear if Governor Christie has authorized his Attorney-General to join the lawsuit. Perhaps he’s worried about appearing hypocritical: you see, New Jersey has NJ FamilyCare - its own version of Obamacare - which the Governor’s budget recently funded to the tune of $110 million.
What is a conflicted Governor - one who wishes to be perceived as a conservative even if he really isn’t - to do? I can’t help but wonder if he is still mulling over the advice of NJ.com columnist Charles Stile:
But Christie also knows that Jersey is a state whose heart beats at a moderate, tolerant rhythm and Christie is well aware that it would be politically untenable to stand in the way of a law providing the promised benefits from health reform - especially when they are not being paid out of the state treasury.
The first installment of Obama’s health care took effect in August, when $141 million was made available for some 21,000 people in New Jersey who have preexisting health problems like cancer or diabetes. While New Jersey law mandates coverage for these conditions, the cost can be prohibitive. Obama’s reforms could stake New Jersey to increased Medicaid funding, money that any governor managing a cash-starved budget is not likely to casually dismiss.
His decision also reflects fear that the unruly, quasi-libertarian Tea Party will become the identity of the GOP establishment, or as in Castle’s case, prevent the establishment-backed candidates from winning.
In that view, the Tea Party is a threat to the GOP’s return to national dominance. And there is no advantage in getting too chummy with a fringe group if Christie does indeed harbor ambitions for national office.
The better play is to co-opt their anger and donor lists without committing to their cause. Dissolve their tentative structure by absorbing their anger.
Rail against public employee unions, throw politically acceptable sops their way, and bask in the glow of Glenn Beck’s tributes - just don’t sign onto their lawsuits.
The last two sentences pretty much summarize the strategy and the modus operandi of Governor Chris Christie - and I want to thank Charles Stile for unmasking the Phantom of the Trenton Opera.
In Part 7 we will examine the myth that Gov. Christie opposes illegal immigration, gun control and the Ground Zero Mosque.
Here are links to all the articles in this series:
How New Jersey Lost Its Mojo
Introduction to the Christie Conservative Myth
Part 1 - Budget Myths
Part 2 - Unions and State Employees
Part 3 - Conservative Appointees
Part 4 - Political Endorsements
Part 5 - Cap & Trade and “Green Technology”
Part 6 - Gov. Christie and Obamacare
Part 7 - Illegal Aliens, Gun Control and the GZ Mosque
Part 8 - A Conservative Myth Exposed