Smerconish: Chopper-gate hits home
It was no surprise to me that Chris Christie took heat for using a state helicopter to attend his son’s baseball game, but I’m not thinking of the wrath of New Jersey taxpayers. If his house is anything like mine, he has bigger problems on the home front for the poor decision he made.
It was no surprise to me that Chris Christie took heat for using a state helicopter to attend his son's baseball game, but I'm not thinking of the wrath of New Jersey taxpayers. If his house is anything like mine, he has bigger problems on the home front for the poor decision he made.
Last Tuesday, Christie flew from Trenton to Montvale to watch his son Andrew play baseball in a state playoff game. Upon arrival adjacent to the field, Christie was shuttled about 100 yards in a dark town car with tinted windows to the stands. Then, after the fifth inning, play was halted so he could depart in order to travel to Drumthwacket, the governor's mansion, to dine with some Iowans who were courting him to run for president.
The state police superintendent said the pilots would have been training in the new $12.5 million craft without the governor, so there was no additional cost to the state police. In similar circumstances, the Star Ledger reported, Govs. Jim McGreevey and Christie Whitman repaid the state. After initially saying he wouldn't do likewise, Christie and the state Republican Party announced on Thursday that they too would pay their own way.
But I'm thinking that satisfied only one segment of his critics. Here's why.
I drive two vehicles: a 2004 F-150 that I own, and a 2011 Jaguar XJL which is provided to me by a sponsor of my radio program.
I was first offered the Jaguar when the model was released and so I was among the first to drive one on the Philadelphia roadways. The car is spectacular — the finest I have ever driven.
It's both ultra luxurious and a smooth ride. So imagine my excitement to pick up our sons from school. Our boys are this week finishing the 4th, 7th, and 9th grades.
I arrived in this brand-spanking-new $80,000 car, only to have the first of them get into the passenger seat and slump down in his chair.
"Dad, I can't believe you picked us up in this!"
Only when we cleared the school grounds did he and his brothers sit up straight and appreciate the interior beauty of the car.
The following day, I thought it best to get them in the F-150. Another surprise.
"Dad, how many pickup trucks do you see other than ours?"
The lesson here was that at this age, they wish to fly beneath the radar — pun intended — which is not so easy with a father prone to the limelight.
So I can only imagine what it was like for Andrew Christie.
It must be bad enough that the opposing pitcher knows he is the governor's son when he comes to the plate. You can imagine him deciding to put a little more heat on the ball. And now, to have added attention heaped on him thanks to a hovering helicopter, not to the mention a town car apparently needed to shuttle dad 300 feet? How embarrassing.
I have to believe he was none to happy with dad's arrival ceremony for a high school baseball game. Good thing his team won.
This also reminds me of a story I often was told by a friend and neighbor from Doylestown, Jack Ernst, who passed away a few weeks ago. Jack was one of the funniest men I have ever known. It runs in his family.
Jack grew up in Lockport, Ill., with two brothers, Jimmy and Joey. The Ernsts had little money. Consequently, the family car was a late 1940s Ford coup with a banged-up fender and an "#88" Jimmy had painted on its side to resemble a stock car. The family was perpetually getting ready to get rid of it.
One day as teens, Jack and Joey had a date at the movies with two local girls. As they approached the theatre in the family jalopy, they asked their father to drop them off a block away so the girls would not see the car. Dad obliged.
But when the boys got to the front of the theatre, their dad suddenly pulled up, rolled down the window, honked the horn, and said, "I'm Mr. Ernst and this is my car!"
One can only imagine the horror the boys felt. Like mine did when I pulled up in the XJL and then the F-150. Like Andrew Christie no doubt did when his dad flew to the ballfield.
Next time Chris Christie should drive. I'll let him borrow the Jag.
Contact Michael Smerconish via www.smerconish.com. Read his columns at www.philly.com/smerconish.