For Christie, every word matters

Gov. Chris Christie touched off a political firestorm of sorts recently when he declared on a radio show “having people flying into your airport just to get high” is not, for him, “the quality of life we want to have here in the state of New Jersey.”

The comments were directed to the Rocky Mountain state of Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal. Christie says he wants nothing of the kind in the Garden State and has been wary of the expansion of New Jersey’s medical marijuana program.

But where as Christie’s position about refusing to sign off on a taxable recreational marijuana program or even a more relaxed medical marijuana program is years old and hardly anything new, his more recent comments generated more buzz.

Last week, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper declared “a lot of people think Colorado is a great place to live” and provided a list of a half dozen areas in which Colorado outranks New Jersey.

Fellow Democratic elected official, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), told Christie he’s welcome to visit “anytime.” Also, The Denver Post’s editorial board argued the state’s high quality of life for its residents is the reason why “Colorado’s population growth has been twice the national average since 2010 and, ahem, four times New Jersey’s anemic rate over that period.”

Essentially, Chrisite caught the attention of more than just a couple people in Colorado.

Few would likely argue Christie’s comments amount to a major gaffe. But in the mindset of where a politician’s offhand comment can have serious ramifications, here’s a couple of quick of former pols who learned that lesson the hard way:

Gary Hart

Speaking about his and his wife’s coastal campaign duties at a fundraiser in Los Angeles 30 years ago, presidential hopeful Gary Hart told an audience that Lee Hart got to campaign in California while he was stuck with the Garden State.

According to campaign consultant Robert Shrum, who writes about the incident in his book, “No Excuses,” Hart then answered his wife’s cuddly California anecdote about getting to hold a koala bear, by prompting belly laughs from the L.A. crowd with this rejoinder: “I won’t tell you what I got to hold – samples from a toxic waste dump.”

Wins in both California and New Jersey would have propelled Hart to seal the nomination. But New Jersey primary voters weren’t amused.

A little over a week after the fund-raiser, on June 5, Hart won in California, as expected; and he went belly up in Jersey, losing every delegate except one, and handing the nomination to Walter Mondale.

Ed Koch

In the early 1980s New York City Mayor Ed Koch was the favorite to win a gubernatorial primary against then Lt. Gov. Mario Cuomo. However, within weeks of the Democratic primary Koch gave an interview with Playboy Magazine in which he criticized upstate New York’s “small-town life” and “gingham dresses.”

In the interview, Koch suggested – or joked, as he would later recall – living in the suburbs was paramount to “wasting your life.” After being asked whether sitting in a subway car to get around was a similar exercise in wasting time, Koch replied:

“‘As opposed to wasting time in a car? Or out in the country, wasting time in a pickup truck when you have to drive 20 miles to buy a gingham dress or a Sears Roebuck suit? 
This rural America thing — I’m telling you, it’s a joke.”

Kock lost the primary in part thanks to a big turnout in western New York. For Christie, every word matters