In an unprecedented move, Governor Chris Christie has declined to grant sitting Supreme Court Justice John Wallace a second term. The Governor feels the Supreme Court has been legislating from the bench, and that allowing Justice Wallace to return to the court for an additional 22 months of a second term (the maximum time the Justice could serve) would not do anything to curb the excesses of the Court.
Within New Jersey, the Governor has few public defenders of his decision to end the career of Wallace, the only African-American member of the Court. But as the Governor has said, he is not interested in popularity and does not care if he is a one-term Governor.
And then it hits me. Christie really does not care whether or not the people who put him in office approve of his job performance. Is it possible, then, that Christie really sees the bully pulpit of the Governorship as nothing more than a vehicle to promote himself for even higher office? All of his decisions -- slashing the state budget, cutting public services, seeking to institute school voucher programs, granting corporations tax breaks -- can be interpreted as attempts to attract attention from outside of New Jersey as much as, if not more than, an attempt to effect change in New Jersey.
Compare if you will the activities of Governor Christie with those of Tim Pawlenty, the Governor of Minnesota who is widely regarded as a front-runner for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination. Like Governor Christie, Governor Pawlenty is seeking to close a daunting budget gap entirely through spending cuts. Like Governor Christie, Governor Pawlenty is having a tiff with the Supreme Court in his State. Governor Christie is molding his image along clearly defined conservative parameters.
When asked, Governor Christie can't name a single instance of the Supreme Court legislating from the bench. But I can. The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that the State cannot discriminate against same-sex couples. Truth be told, anytime I hear someone talk about legislating from the bench these days it generally has something to do with gay people. So, connecting a few dots here, Governor Christie is giving a shout out to conservatives that he opposes courts that favor gay rights.
And then there's the speech the Governor gave on the night he was elected, during which Christie repeatedly swore to take back New Jersey. I can't help but notice that the tea party movement of the Republican Party wants to take back our country from it's first black President, and Governor Christie is taking back the Supreme Court from its only black justice. These dots pretty much connect themselves.
And so, it seems that for the next 4 years, at least, blue New Jersey is about to become a testing ground for every conservative Republican/ tea party idea for government. Because unless I miss my guess, Governor Christie is betting that Barack Obama is a 1 term President and that there is a spot for Christie in a future Republican administration -- maybe Vice President, maybe Attorney General.
Kind of makes you miss Jim McGreevey, doesn't it?