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More on Firing at the Teachers

The NY Times today had a longish article by Matt Bai on Governor Christie of New Jersey which contrasted his communications strategy with that of the NJ Teachers union. It was somewhat unfavorable for the Union. Christie the stand-up comedian against the whining, ad hominem and off topic meandering of the heads of the teachers. I, for one, would wish that the teachers did a little more work on their rhetoric.


Like a stand-up comedian working out-of-the-way clubs, Chris Christie travels the townships and boroughs of New Jersey­, places like Hackettstown and Raritan and Scotch Plains, sharpening his riffs about the state’s public employees, whom he largely blames for plunging New Jersey into a fiscal death spiral. In one well-worn routine, for instance, the governor reminds his audiences that, until he passed a recent law that changed the system, most teachers in the state didn’t pay a dime for their health care coverage, the cost of which was borne by taxpayers.

And so, Christie goes on, forced to cut more than $1 billion in local aid in order to balance the budget, he asked the teachers not only to accept a pay freeze for a year but also to begin contributing 1.5 percent of their salaries toward health care. The dominant teachers’ union in the state responded by spending millions of dollars in television and radio ads to attack him.

“The argument you heard most vociferously from the teachers’ union,” Christie says, “was that this was the greatest assault on public education in the history of New Jersey.” Here the fleshy governor lumbers a few steps toward the audience and lowers his voice for effect. “Now, do you really think that your child is now stressed out and unable to learn because they know that their poor teacher has to pay 1½ percent of their salary for their health care benefits? Have any of your children come home — any of them — and said, ‘Mom.’ ” Pause. “ ‘Dad.’ ” Another pause. “ ‘Please. Stop the madness.’ ”

~~Edited for compliance with copyright; readers may find the remainder at link provided above.~~

Contrast this with the reporting Bai gives to the Teachers Union:

One afternoon last month, at the modern, airy headquarters of the N.J.E.A., I sat with Barbara Keshishian, the union’s president, and Vincent Giordano, its executive director, and listened as they tried to puzzle out why it was that Christie seemed so determined to humiliate them.

“Frankly, I for one don’t say we’re always 100 percent right on every single issue, and certainly neither is the administration across the street,” said Giordano, a bald and goateed organizer who has been at the union for 40 years. “The difference is the tone and the mean-­spiritedness of the way he talks about us. He has made us basically the whipping boy for anything that goes wrong in New Jersey and the country and in Bangladesh if there’s an earthquake. It seems that we’re just the cause of all the problems in our society today.

“I don’t know what he’s got buried down there inside of him that causes him to be this totally driven,” Giordano said. “I don’t think he’s really supportive of a public-education system. If he was, he might send his kids to public school, which he doesn’t.” (Christie and his wife, Mary Pat, a bond trader, have four children, ages 7 to 17, and all attend Catholic schools.) “I think he’s not very enamored with public services in general. Public employees, public education, public pension systems — somehow he’s allergic to the word ‘public.’ Somebody ought to get him some kind of medication that gets him off of that allergy he has to anything that’s public.”

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