It was the shot seen around the world: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and his family lounging on an empty state park beach. The beach was empty because the governor had closed it to everyone else, including long-time beach shack owners who were told to leave or face arrest.
The photograph captured an arrogance that too often permeates politics — and likely contributes to Christie’s 15 percent approval rating, the lowest of any sitting governor in the U.S.
At first, Christie and his staff denied that he had been at the beach. When asked if he’d gotten any sun on Sunday, Christie said: “I didn’t. I didn’t get any sun today.”
When confronted with photographs of the governor and his family on a deserted beach, his spokesman said that Christie had been on the beach briefly, talking to his wife and family. Photos showed Christie ensconced in a beach chair surrounded by family, playing games and lying in the sun.
“He did not get any sun,” Christie spokesman Brian Murray said, as if reporters were inquiring about Christie’s tanning habits. “He had a baseball hat on.”
Christie later facetiously congratulated the Star Ledger, which hired a plane to fly a photographer over the beach to look for the governor, for reporting that the governor did what he said he would be doing — spending time with his family.
At a beach that no other New Jersey residents could access.
The beach incident smacks of a dangerous detachment from the people Christie was elected to represent. Government shutdown? Who cares? I’ve got a beach chair waiting for me.
Here’s how Christie defended his beach stay: “That’s because the governor has a residence at Island Beach. Others don’t,” Christie reportedly said at a news conference Saturday, the first day of the New Jersey shutdown, according to The Hill.
“It’s just the way it goes. Run for governor and then you can have the residence,” he added, referring to a residence the Garden State has kept for its governors to visit since the 1950s.
Christie said his family would not postpone or cancel their plans to visit the park, although other families were forced to change their plans because of the Christie-ordered shutdown.
This can roughly be translated to “Let them eat cake.”
The hypocrisy is even worse because Christie, through state park police officers, told other families that do in fact own beach residences that they couldn’t be there.
It appeared Maine was headed for a similar out-of-touch governor situation on Monday when LePage told Republican lawmakers that he was leaving town for 10 days.
His office denied that the governor was leaving Maine. LePage spokesman Peter Steele’s response on Monday to questions about LePage leaving town? “As I said, 100 percent fake news. The Governor is in Maine.”
No one was asking where LePage was on Monday, so answering that non-question was irrelevant. Steele did not answer questions about the governor’s future whereabouts.
LePage left a voicemail for Republican Sen. Roger Katz, a member of the committee trying to negotiate a budget agreement, on Monday, saying “I’m heading out of town for about 10 days and I’d like to speak with you before I leave.” The BDN obtained the voicemail through a public records request.
LePage was still in Maine on Wednesday, the day after the shutdown ended, so perhaps the vacation talk was a threat to get lawmakers to agree to a budget deal before they thought he was leaving town and wouldn’t be able to sign it.
If this is true, it worked.
Or maybe, as he said Thursday, he just made up the story to get the media “to write these stupid stories because they are just so stupid.” He later said he left the voicemail to get senators to call him back, but that he was not taking a vacation.
While LePage may be a liar, he didn’t actually go to the beach while state government was shut down. Instead, he stayed in Augusta to play games.