April 12, I had the opportunity to meet New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at a town hall meeting right in my hometown of South Plainfield. I also got to confront my dread fear of public speaking for the first time since Nullify Now Philly, when I got to ask NJ Assemblywoman McHose a question, and join members of the NJ and PA TAC chapters for some Q&A. My wife Judy, being off this week, was able to watch the little ones while I went. It was a great opportunity, not only to discuss nullification with the Governor, but to share the idea with a capacity crowd at the South Plainfield PAL, the majority of whom had probably never heard nullification discussed.
Based on 5-10 second news station clips of altercations at other town halls, I expected a Governor who would be belligerent in his response, and was prepared to respond, “Save some of that for DC!” if it came to that. It turned out I didn’t have to. He was very considerate about listening to questions and tried to be as thorough in his responses as time allowed. To paraphrase the Governor, he definitely let the people know where he stood, and they could decide from there if they agreed or disagreed with him. I humbly admit, I prejudged based on a few incidents the media emphasized, where interestingly enough, the comments made to Governor Christie never seemed to make it on television. Only the responses were televised.
When the governor called on me, I had hoped to get video footage to share with the Tenth Amendment Center site, but due to me not looking where I was pointing my camera, I mostly got the kid sitting in front of me, and I figured he and his family wouldn’t appreciate me sharing that. My question for the Governor was two-fold. First, if legislation reclaiming state authority over an issue and saying no to the federal government on constitutional grounds were brought to his desk, would he sign it? Second, if legislation surrendering state authority to the federal government were brought to his desk, would he veto it on constitutional grounds? Simple, basic, and something that in another forum probably could have led to an extended interview, which I honestly wouldn’t mind doing with any member of our state government, or anyone at the county or municipal level. But perhaps someone else should handle operating the camera if that day comes.
The answers, coming from a former member of the Bush administration, surprised me. Once again admittedly prejudging, I expected the textbook lecture about federal supremacy in all things and how dare I suggest otherwise. The second question was answered first, which was a resounding yes. As for the first question, it depended on the issue and the individual piece of legislation. He felt it was too broad a question to say yes across the board, but that it was something that had to be looked at when the issue called for it, perhaps somewhere between a “maybe” and a “no, unless…”
We ended our rather pleasant and friendly exchange with me recommending he check out the Tenth Amendment Center’s model legislation, which I hope he will do. If he doesn’t, well at least a few hundred New Jerseyans got to hear the issue discussed with the Governor, with members of the South Plainfield Borough Council present as well. I also know it made at least a little bit of an impression with the Governor, since when another resident asked a question about the Governor’s feelings on ObamaCare, he pointed in my direction and said this would be a good question for “our Tenth Amendment guy.”
Hmm…Tenth Amendment Guy. I like the sound of that. If only super public speaking powers and a uniform came with that title.
Benjamin W. Mankowski, Sr. [send him email] is a blogger with the Tenth Amendment Center. He writes from New Jersey.
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