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The Boss Disses the Governor

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Posted on Jan 17, 2014

By Richard Reeves

I grew up in Jersey—Jersey City. I don’t remember being west of the Delaware River until I was in college. I thought the United States was an Italian country governed by the Irish.

I was there in 1961 when the Irish, led by Frank Hague and John V. Kenny, were finally succeeded in Jersey City by our first Italian mayor, Tom Gangemi. That was a very big deal, and the government of Italy and the Pope himself invited Gangemi to come to Rome to be presented with medals and ribbons. He was very excited about that, even going to get a passport. He couldn’t. It turned out he was an undocumented immigrant and had to resign.

So it goes. We’re used to being made fun of ... Did I mention that Chris Christie is half-Irish and half-Sicilian? But the cruelest cut of all came last Monday night when Christie was mocked by Bruce Springsteen on the Jimmy Fallon show. Springsteen, a Jersey boy who made good, is Christie’s idol. Or was. The governor says he has attended 170 Springsteen concerts since 1975, when he was a student at Seton Hall Law School.

If you haven’t seen the video—and millions have on YouTube—the tune is Springsteen’s classic "Born to Run," with new lyrics:

"In the day we sweat it out on the streets, stuck in traffic on the GWB.

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"They shut down the tollbooths of glory ‘cause we didn’t endorse Christie.

"Sprung from cages on Highway 9, we got three lanes closed, so Jersey get your ass in line. ...

"We gotta get out but we can’t. We’re stuck in Governor Chris Christie’s Fort Lee, N.J., traffic jam. ...

"You’ve got Wall Street masters stuck cheek-to-cheek with blue collar truckers, and man, I really gotta take a leak,

"But I can’t. I’m stuck in Governor Chris Christie’s Fort Lee, N.J., traffic jam ... Whoa, oh oh oh

"I gotta take a leak.

"Whoa, oh oh oh"

"Bridgegate" is the name, politics is the game. Someone, whose initials may be C.C., ordered or inspired his minions to close all but one lane of the George Washington Bridge between Fort Lee and upper Manhattan, causing a world-class traffic jam on the Jersey side—for four days. It seems the mayor of Fort Lee, a Democrat, had resisted pressure to endorse Christie, a Republican, for re-election as governor last November. Payback time!

Perhaps it all has something to do with being on the "wrong side" of the Hudson River. Until emails were discovered showing the governor’s top aides were behind the commuter-choking, Christie was noted for his weight, plain-talking, and angering fellow Republicans by thanking a Democrat, President Obama, for help in dealing with the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Also, for canceling a bistate deal to build a badly needed new train tunnel under the river. "It’s just another tunnel to the basement of Macy’s," said Christie in the Jersey way.

Ah, well, as I said, we’re used to it. The National Football League’s Giants and Jets both actually play in New Jersey, but call themselves the New York Giants and the New York Jets.

Twenty years ago, one of Christie’s predecessors, James Florio, got his name in the papers by complaining to ABC Sports, which was televising golf’s U.S. Open from Livingston, N.J., that the bumper shots from the Goodyear blimp were showing Central Park, which, as you may know, is not in Livingston.

It’s always been that way. Benjamin Franklin called Jersey "a keg tapped at both ends"—by New York and Philadelphia.

In fact, the last time an outsider said something nice about my state was in the 1950s. That would be Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev. He refused State Department pleas to fly from New York to Washington to meet President Eisenhower. Our diplomats did not want him to see the wasteland along the New Jersey Turnpike—which was exactly what he wanted to see. So, he was driven through the smoke and brute industrial strength of refineries and factories, loving every minute of it. It was what he wanted the Soviet Union to look like.


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