Each and every success of the Christie Administration’s first two years is attributable to the Governor’s endearing unwillingness to let political opponents frame the debate. This principled intransigence accounts for a rudderless national GOP looking longingly to New Jersey’s top Republican for leadership.
So why let up now, Mr. Governor?
The facts were on his side. Gov. Christie used a state-owned helicopter to squeeze in a few innings of his son’s baseball game in between appointments… nothing nefarious nor, I might add, inconsistent with his prior usage or that of prior governors. And the price was right, too. The State Police verified that the chopper trip under scrutiny cost taxpayers nothing beyond what was already allotted for a pre-scheduled training exercise.
It still wasn’t an advisable move. Blameless as he might be from an ethical perspective, the Governor clearly made a mistake by failing to anticipate how a chopper landing in the middle of a little league field would be extremely easy for Trenton Democrats/liberal reporters/union leaders to spin negatively.
Yet the real mistake was perpetrated after the fact, Save Jerseyans, when he decided yesterday afternoon to reimburse the state for the $2000+ bill.
Much like a motorist paying off a bogus speeding ticket rather than braving a municipal court ordeal, I completely understand why the Governor may believe this was the better solution. He’s got bigger fish to fry and messy PR distractions are always unwelcome. But now that Governor Christie’s ponied up cash for his chopper ride, Democrat opponents can persuasively claim that he de facto admitted fault in so doing (even if he failed to verbalize it).
Was the decision to pay a fatal error? No, although it was very uncharacteristic of a typically-unapologetic political master. Fact is we’re in the midst of a slow primary season for bored state political reporters. Things can easily get blown out of proportion whenever the other side helps fan the flames. For now, this non-scandal is little more than a sensationalized footnote in the Christie first term narrative. What it will mutate into over time is another anti-Christie attack ad for 2013 that the Governor didn’t need to help storyboard by making yesterday’s very un-Christie announcement.