Annette John-Hall: Christie is looking better and better
I said this after Hurricane Sandy and I'll say it again.
Chris Christie has started to grow on me.
And no, that's not meant as a joke.
Christie's straight talk of late may be just more bullying by a master politician, but it sure does ring true to me. In a parched partisan landscape where every move is done for political gain - "It's why the American people hate Congress," he said - Christie's tell-it-like-it-is rhetoric serves as needed refreshment for the masses.
In case you missed it, the enraged New Jersey governor went off on his fellow Republicans Wednesday after House Speaker John Boehner blocked a vote late Tuesday on a $60 billion aid package for victims of the storm named Sandy.
Sure, Boehner tried to make amends by promising a Friday vote on $9 billion of the storm-relief package and another vote on the remaining $51 billion on Jan. 15. But with new members of Congress sworn in, who knows how long it will really take?
"Talk to the folks in Toms River. Talk to the people in Lavallette. Ask them if another two weeks matters to them," Christie said Wednesday. "Those are the people I care about."
It isn't as if Sandy blew in with no bluster. It killed 130 people up and down the Eastern Seaboard and did $80 billion in damage. As Christie noted, New Jersey and New York are not looking for a handout. As donor states, they pay more to the feds than they get back.
But in this most toxic, anti-Obama House of Representatives, disaster aid gets redefined as - horror of horrors! - a handout, pork, more spending to cut, making it harder for victims to rebuild their lives.
Once, "disaster relief was something that you didn't play games with," a disgusted Christie said. Now? It's "a potential piece of bait for the political game."
A game, by the way, that the bombastic governor is playing to win.
Saying what you think
See, Christie has nothing to lose and much to gain by skewering his own party in general and Boehner - the least popular politician in Washington - in particular.
Not only is Christie positioning himself as a shoo-in for reelection in blue Jersey, but he's helping his chances for a 2016 presidential run by framing himself as one of the few Republican candidates who can put partisan politics aside for the sake of the people.
(Of course, a 72 percent approval rating buys a lot of latitude for the famous Christie mouth.)
I'm still not sold that Christie will do right by working people, especially union folks. And I don't think he takes civil rights as seriously as he needs to. Remember last year, when the governor said he'd rather put gay marriage to a referendum than sign a bill?
"The fact of the matter is, I think people would have been happy to have a referendum on civil rights rather than fighting and dying in the streets in the South," he said by way of comparison.
Really? Never mind that African Americans living in the South wouldn't have been allowed to vote in such a referendum. (Christie later issued a rare apology for those boneheaded comments.)
Still. It's nice to hear a politician say what he thinks and mean it, and not give a hoot about the repercussions, whether you agree with him or not.
In fact, I'm waiting for another politician to take a page out of Gov. Christie's big, bold playbook.
I'll give you a hint. His initials are B.O., and we reelected him so he wouldn't have to give a hoot anymore.
Contact Annette John-Hall at 215-854-4986, Ajohnhall@phillynews.com or on Twitter @Annettejh.