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Friday, June 23, 2017

Worst N.J. governor ever labors in the shadow of worst president in U.S. history

This undated photo of New Jersey Governor Christie and then-presidential candidate Donald J. Trump, right, ran with a June 14, 2016, post on VanityFair.com (credit: Brendan Smialowki/AFP/Getty Images).

-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Governor Christie has worked hard to reshape an image tarnished by the Bridgegate scandal and more than 500 vetoes of everything from a millionaires tax to the $15 minimum wage.

In his crusade against drug abuse and overdose deaths from heroin and such pain relievers as oxycodone,  the GOP bully has been trying for a kinder and gentler image.

At the end of March, President Trump named Christie to lead a new national opioid commission to address what many call the deadliest public health crisis in modern American history.

"Addiction is a disease, and no life is disposable," Christie said in a TV interview. "We can help people by giving them appropriate treatment."

Trump's pal?

That appointment was the consolation prize for New Jersey's governor, who dropped out of the presidential race in January 2016 and threw his support to Trump -- drawing the ire of six major daily newspapers that called for his resignation.

He had been passed over as Trump's running mate in the Nov. 8 election, and the former corruption-busting U.S. attorney for New Jersey didn't even get nominated to be attorney general of the United States.

Also, he was ousted as head of Trump's transition team at the request of son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Christie prosecuted his father, real estate developer Charles Kushner, who pleaded guilty to illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion and witness tampering in 2005, and served 14 months in federal prison.

In a June 2016 story, New Yorker magazine reported: 
 “Governor Chris Christie, of New Jersey, another of Trump’s opponents early in the campaign, has transformed himself into a sort of manservant, who is constantly with Trump at events. (One Republican told me that a friend of his on the Trump campaign used Snapchat to send him a video of Christie fetching Trump’s McDonald’s order.)” The servile depiction of Christie incited other media outlets to refer to the governor as the real-estate mogul’s “unpaid McDonald’s delivery intern” and “an errand boy for Donald Trump’s campaign.”

Christie crusade

Page 1 of The Record of Woodland Park has been focusing on Christie's anti-drug crusade:

Today, State House Bureau reporter Dustin Racioppi says the state Attorney General's Office has joined a multi-state probe of the pharmaceutical industry "for its potential role in the opioid crisis that has swept the state and the country" (1A).

The office also issued a subpoena to Johnson & Johnson "related to marketing practices for opioids by subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals." 

"Drug overdoses, fueled mostly by heroin and other opioids, killed more than 52,000 people in 2015 -- more than the roughly 43,000 who died at the peak of the HIV/AIDS crisis in 1995," Racioppi says.

Last year's drug-related death toll is expected to exceed 59,000, according to a New York Times analysis.

Stile v. Christie

On Wednesday, Record Editor Richard A. Green didn't even bother running a front-page news story on Christie announcing at a press conference that the state fined Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey $15.5 million for allegedly bungling thousands of claims.

Instead, Page 1 carried another in an endless succession of boring political columns from burned-out Trenton reporter Charles Stile, who has been trying mightily to make up for more than 6 years of idolizing Christie in print.

Stile's column reported the fine on the state's biggest health insurer, and noted Christie has been trying to "browbeat a reluctant Democratic State Legislature into backing a $300 million raid of Horizon's capital reserves to finance an expansion of the state's drug-treatment services."

The news story ran on A4.

Still in Palookaville

The outcome of the Christie-Horizon battle remains to be seen. 

But the governor has an unlimited number of vetoes he can execute before he leaves office next January or at least use as leverage over the Democratic majority in the state Legislature.

He also has the lowest approval rating of any governor in the country.

And New Jersey's worst governor ever still labors in the shadow of the worst president in U.S. history.

Syrian refugee

Page 1 today carries not one but three pieces on successful students and their graduations.

Staff Writer Hannan Adely's portrait of Mohamad Chacha of Paterson caught my eye, because he and his family fled Aleppo, Syria, "with just the clothes on their backs and their passports" (1A).

Not quite, as we learn later in the story.

And Adely doesn't mention that after the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris, Christie sought to bar all Syrian refugees -- even children -- from entering New Jersey and the rest of the country.

Luckily, the Chacha family of 6 arrived in fall 2013 "at a time before refugee bans even entered the national conversation," Adely says in a clear reference to Trump's executive orders, all of which have been overturned by the courts.

The family had obtained visas to Cuba, where they lived for 15 months, including interviews and background checks, before being allowed to enter the United States.

Cuba? What a coincidence, especially if Mohamad's last name, Chacha, is written as "Cha Cha,"  the Latin dance that originated on the Caribbean's largest island.