Christie ends shut­down, but beach pic­tures left an im­print

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Gov Chris Christie, by his own ad­mis­sion, en­tered lame-duck ter­ri­tory yes­ter­day, sign­ing his fi­nal bud­get af­ter a bruis­ing three-day state gov­ern­ment shut­down that in­cluded a vi­ral photo of him loung­ing on a state beach that was closed to the pub­lic be­cause of a bud­get im­passe. The two-term Repub­li­can gov­er­nor signed the $34.7 bil­lion bud­get yes­ter­day and sounded an un­apolo­getic tone over the ae­rial pho­tos snapped by that showed him at the state gov­er­nor’s res­i­dence at Is­land Beach State Park.

The pic­tures sparked a global re­ac­tion: count­less memes fea­tur­ing a Pho­to­shopped cutout of Christie in a beach chair, head­lines on in­ter­na­tional news sites and a full-scale me­dia blitz from Christie’s spokesman. “If they had flown that plane over that beach and I was sit­ting next to a 25-year-old blonde in that beach chair next to me that’s a story,” he said. “I wasn’t sit­ting next to a 25-year-old blonde. I was sit­ting next to my wife of 31 years.” The pho­tos are part of a bruis­ing fi­nale for the term-lim­ited gov­er­nor, who had been a reg­u­lar on late-night TV and a Repub­li­can su­per­star af­ter Su­per­storm Sandy ham­mered his state in 2012.

Christie’s job ap­proval in New Jersey has sunk to 15 per­cent, tum­bling af­ter the con­vic­tions of three for­mer aides in a scheme to de­lib­er­ately cause traf­fic jams at the Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Bridge, his failed pres­i­den­tial run and his back­ing of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. He’s be­come such a po­lit­i­cal li­a­bil­ity in New Jersey that his top deputy, Lt Gov Kim Guadagno, run­ning to suc­ceed him, ham­mered him over the beach pho­tos: “Be­yond words,” she said. Peo­ple in New Jersey and be­yond seized on what many saw as a let-them-eat-cake ges­ture by the state’s chief ex­ec­u­tive.

“Tax­pay­ers can’t use the parks and other pub­lic sites they pay for, but he and his fam­ily can hang out at a beach that no one else can use?” asked Mary Jackson, a Free­hold res­i­dent. “Doesn’t he re­al­ize how that looks, how peo­ple will see it as a slap in the face?” Christie ac­knowl­edged his lame-duck sta­tus yes­ter­day af­ter the bud­get sign­ing but pre­dicted that if Guadagno wins he still might have some in­flu­ence with law­mak­ers - but less if Demo­crat Phil Mur­phy wins. The Leg­is­la­ture is ex­pected to leave Tren­ton to cam­paign since all 120 seats are up this year.

Christie de­nied the beach pho­tos played a role in how he ne­go­ti­ated with law­mak­ers and said it was “the pres­sure of a shut­down” that con­trib­uted to the bud­get res­o­lu­tion. He also has said he only wor­ries about polls when he’s run­ning for of­fice - and he’s not. But ex­perts said they think the pic­tures all but did him in. “The pho­tos are likely the nails in Christie’s po­lit­i­cal cof­fin that drive his ap­proval rat­ings into the sin­gle dig­its,” Mont­clair State Uni­ver­sity po­lit­i­cal science pro­fes­sor Brigid Har­ri­son said.

The deal Christie struck late Mon­day with Demo­cratic Se­nate Pres­i­dent Steve Sweeney and Demo­cratic Assem­bly Speaker Vin­cent Pri­eto calls for a $34.7 bil­lion bud­get that in­cludes more than $300 mil­lion in Demo­cratic spend­ing pri­or­i­ties and is part of an agree­ment to over­haul the state’s largest health in­surer, Hori­zon Blue Cross Blue Shield.— AP

TREN­TON: New Jersey Gov Chris Christie ad­dresses a joint ses­sion of the Demo­crat-led Leg­is­la­ture at the state­house in Tren­ton, NJ. —AP

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