Three years after hugging President Barack Obama down the stretch of a brutal presidential contest and infuriating fellow Republicans who said the public display of affection hurt GOP nominee Mitt Romney, Gov. Chris Christie has the war paint on as part of own sputtering prez bid, attempting to put exactly the distance between Camden and Newark on display as a show of just how much of a gap exists between himself and the Democratic president.
Christie has spent a week plus excoriating Obama in the context of the presidential contender’s criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement. “There’s lawlessness in this country,” the New Jersey governor said late last month on Face the Nation. “The President encourages this lawlessness… He doesn’t support the police, he justifies Black Lives Matter. …I don’t believe that movement should be justified when they are calling for the murder of police officer.”
As he seeks to bond with Republican Primary voters in part by making Democrat Obama the target, Christie continues to struggle in national polls. A Monmouth University poll last week showed the combative chief executive in ninth place in the crowded Republican field of contenders.
The poll even put him ahead of Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a vociferous critic of the 2012 Hurricane Sandy version of Christie who hugged Obama sooner than reject federal assistance for a Sandy-ravaged New Jersey. “I know you gave him a big hug and if you want to give him a big hug again, go right ahead,” Paul told Christie this summer in the first debate of the presidential primary season.
Christie slapped back hard at the Kentuckian. “You know, Sen. Paul, the hugs that I remember are the ones I gave to the families who lost their people on Sept. 11,” the New Jersey governor said.
Having sought to relegate Paul to Lincoln Chafee-sized status on the Republican stage but failed in keeping himself from teetering on that same side of the field, Christie is keeping his sights on Hillary Clinton and – with particular acceleration as the president prepares to make an appearance today in Newark – Obama.
“We have liberal policies that tie the hands behind the backs of police officers and when incidents happen, accuse them of misconduct first and then do the investigation later,” Christie said this morning on Fox and Friends. “You’ve got a president of the United States who does not support law enforcement. He simply doesn’t. And he’s going to come today to New Jersey in a place where – under my tenure – we have reduced crime 20% and reduced the prison population 10%. He’s going to come to New Jersey today to take credit because it’s one of the few places in the country where that actually is happening, but he has absolutely nothing to do with it.”
But Pat Colligan, president of the New Jersey Police Benevolent Association, sees it differently.
Last May, when Obama visited Camden to celebrate what the White House cited as gains by urban law enforcement, the union leader fired off a letter to the President of the United States, telling him that he has been misled to believe “PR spin” that the Camden County Metro Police Department is a success in battling violent crime that besets the waterfront south state city.
“This police department was created by union busting tactics with the full collusion of Governor Christie and local leaders who, when crime spiked after massive officer layoffs, blamed the remaining officers instead of themselves,” wrote Colligan.
The Camden County Metro Police arose in 2013 through an agreement between the State, County and City of Camden. In the years preceding the creation of the new Department, 168 police officers absorbed lay-offs, Colligan said. When the Camden FOP would not negotiate severe cuts in their current contract with the City for their remaining officers, local leaders went to the State for approval to disband the Department. The result was a deal to layoff every remaining Camden Police Officer, transfer policing of the City to the County and use of tens of millions in State funds to pay for the new force, he noted.
Back in New Jersey for a an appearance with Camden Mayor Dana Redd and a chance to highlight his crime record against the president’s, Christie would have to contend with more than Colligan, however, as it turned out; with Republican candidates for office – irritated by his alliance with Camden Democrats – mobilizing to protest his presence.