On the front page of Thursday's New York Times, reporter Richard Perez-Pena again goes after Republican Gov. Chris Christie, making waves for his town hall appearances going after teachers unions and public pension plans, “Christie’s Talk Is Blunt, but Not Always Straight.”
The Times has escalated its anti-Christie sniping, and some of Perez-Pena’s “inaccuracies” are pretty pro forma and nit-picky for a front-page story and would probably have been passed over without comment by the Times if rendered by Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign, judging by the many Obama flubs the paper dismissed.
New Jersey’s public-sector unions routinely pressure the State Legislature to give them what they fail to win in contract talks. Most government workers pay nothing for health insurance. Concessions by school employees would have prevented any cuts in school programs last year.
Statements like those are at the core of Gov. Chris Christie’s campaign to cut state spending by getting tougher on unions. They are not, however, accurate.
In fact, on the occasions when the Legislature granted the unions new benefits, it was for pensions, which were not subject to collective bargaining -- and it has not happened in eight years. In reality, state employees have paid 1.5 percent of their salaries toward health insurance since 2007, in addition to co-payments and deductibles, and since last spring, many local government workers, including teachers, do as well. The few dozen school districts where employees agreed to concessions last year still saw layoffs and cuts in academic programs.
Mr. Christie, a Republican who took office in January 2010, would hardly be the first politician to indulge in hyperbole or gloss over facts. But his misstatements, exaggerations and carefully constructed claims belie the national image he has built as a blunt talker who gives straight answers to hard questions, especially about budgets and labor relations. Candor is central to Mr. Christie’s appeal, and a review of his public statements over the past year shows some of them do not hold up to scrutiny.
Some overstatements have worked their way into the governor’s routine public comments, like a claim that he balanced the budget last year without raising taxes; in truth, he cut deeply into tax credits for the elderly and the poor. But inaccuracies also crop up when he is challenged, and his instinct seems to be to turn it into an attack on someone else instead of giving an answer.
Perez-Pena eventually relayed a commonplace -- that Christie’s exaggerations, which undergo thorough scrutiny from liberals, aren’t out of line by the standards of political parlance.
Professor Woolley, the political scientist and pollster, said that he did not know whether Mr. Christie had embellished any more than other politicians, but that as a Republican in a Democratic-leaning state who promotes himself as a paragon of straight talk, he might need to stick to the truth more than most.
Or when he's the subject of a front-page story in the "Democratic-leaning" New York Times.