I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tom Moran: Put Up Or Shut Up

Tom Moran writes yet another column saying that Chris Christie would be even more awesome if he wasn't so angry all the time. Whatever; the Star-Ledger Op-Ed Editor has been giving the guv career advice since he was sworn in. What really irks me here is that Moran once again ascribes all sorts of bad motives to the teachers union without giving cause:
Christie has had many overheated moments like this. But when he targets the teachers union, he’s usually right. When he targets Democrats, he’s right about half the time. 
It’s a tricky business, though, Baker says. If you are attacking someone with power, it can work, as when Christie goes after the unions or Democrats. But when the governor dressed down a teacher at a town hall meeting, and a Navy SEAL at another, that probably turned off voters. [emphasis mine]
I understand that Moran is under a word count restriction, but would it kill him to give one example of when Christie was "right" to attack the NJEA?

Was it when he called the union "immoral" for daring to buy ads that made the case for its own tenure proposal - the proposal most like the final tenure law?

How about when Christie sent his minions out to try to videotape NJEA Executive Director Vince Giordano getting into his car? Moran himself said Christie was "fixated on scoring political points." (Of course, Moran also said: "We have a union whose highest goal is to protect bad teachers," a truly preposterous statement.)

Maybe Christie was "right" to go to Harvard and say this:
Graduate student Jenny Hanson, 29, ended the 30-minute question and answer portion by asking Christie why he uses words like "thuggery," "fight" and "disrupter" in dealing with the union and if he has ever considered that his approach might not be working.
The governor paused for a moment, lowered the tone of his voice and told Hanson he often thinks about the approach he has taken with the union. He said he is willing to sit down and talk with the unions, but only once they demonstrate they’re willing to get on board.
"I am prepared to ratchet down the rhetoric if I could get any indication that there is any interest in changing the failed system," Christie said. "Until that time, ‘disrupted’ and ‘fighting’ and ‘thuggery’ are the words that I’m going to continue to use."
Wollmer disputed claims by the governor that the union isn’t willing to talk about education changes. "We’re willing to sit down with him any time, he refuses to do so," Wollmer said.
Yeah, but then Tom Moran might stop thinking Christie's tough-guy approach is so awesome; and we can't let compromise ruin Tom's man-crush, can we?

Was Christie was "right" to attack teachers personally (I reprint them as quotes below)? To say teachers don't care about their students, or use their students as "drug mules"? Was that "right," Tom? If so, why? Where's the evidence that what Christie is alleging is true? Where is your case that the union doesn't care about New Jersey's students?

To my knowledge, Moran has only ever put forward one quote to demonstrate the alleged bad faith of the NJEA:
By now, the issues dividing Christie and the union might be lost in the tussle, so here’s a quick review: The governor’s plan is about 90 percent identical to President Obama’s. He wants to get rid of bad teachers, expand charter schools and close failing schools, to focus on kids instead of adults.
His main break with Obama is that he wants a small voucher program, as do people such as Cory Booker in Newark and the Rev. Reginald Jackson of the Black Ministers’ Council.
All that’s great. And the union hates most of it because it is old-school. Barbara Keshishian, the union chief, said famously that she doesn’t even know what a bad teacher is. Enough said.
"Enough said" - yep, that's all the proof Tom needs. As I wrote at the time Moran published that quote:
I've tried to find an attribution for Keshishian's statement, as Moran has used it to hang her before. According to Moran himself, she said it at an S-L editorial board meeting (Kevin Manahan of the S-L confirms this). Yet the S-L, according to my searches, has never published the quote in context. What else did she say? What was the question that prompted her statement?

Tom, you make the case that Giordano's quote should not be used against him to imply he doesn't care about poor kids. By that logic, you have to give us the context of Keshishian's statement if you want to use it to make the case that she wants to protect bad teachers. This is Journalism 101.
So I'm making this call again, and this time, I'm not letting go: you, Tom Moran, need to give us the full context of Keshishian's quote. If you can't provide a transcript - which, in this day and age, would be amazingly sloppy - you need to report on what exactly Keshishian was asked and the full context of how she responded.

But I don't think you will do that, and here's why: you know that Keshishian would never, ever willingly say or imply that the union wants to protect bad teachers. It is ridiculous to even hint at such an outrageous idea. And you know that, Tom; you know that.

But prove me wrong. Put up or shut up.

ADDING: Moran adds in the comments to the piece:
Also, not sure why you believe the account of the boardwalk incident leaked by the administration, with no named source. It serves his interests perfectly. I remain skeptical, still looking for facts before I embrace any version. 
 Me too. So publish Keshishian's quote, in context, in its entirety.

EXTRA: Since we always need the reminder, here are Christie's greatest teacher insulting hits:

April, 2010, CNBC:
“I love the public schools but the fact of the matter is there is excess and greed there,” said Christie, during an appearance on CNBC’s Squawk Box. [That's in the "public schools," not the union offices - JJ]
July, 2010, MSNBC:
The state teachers union said--they had a rally in Trenton against me. 35,000 people came from the teachers. You know what that rally was? The "me first" rally. "Pay me my raise first. Pay me my free health benefits first. Pay me my pension first. And everybody else in New Jersey, get to the back of the line." Well, you know what? I'm not going to sit by and allow that to go unnoticed, so we'll shine a bright light on it, and we'll see how the people react. But I think we are seeing how the people of New Jersey are reacting, and that's how you make it politically palatable in other states in the country. Just shine a bright light on greed and self-interest.
April, 2010, The Star-Ledger:
 "Scaring students in the classroom, scaring parents with the notes home in the bookbags, and the mandatory 'Project Democracy Homework' asking your parents about what they're going to do in the school board election, and reporting back to your teachers union representatives, using the students like drug mules to carry information back to the classroom, is reprehensible."
November, 2010, The Trentonian:
“These teachers have all summer off. Can’t they have their convention during the summer?’’ the governor said as he spoke to a clutch of high schoolers surrounding him.

“They got to get two days off from school because, you know, they don’t get enough time off now, right? They get two weeks off at Christmas, they get all the different holidays, then they get all the summer off and now they need two more days.

“Why do you think that is? Do you think If they cared about learning where would they be today?’’

Ashley Batts, 16, a Trenton Central High School sophomore answered “in school.’’

“That’s right, in school, baby, they would not be down there in Atlantic City having a party — because that’s what it is.’’ [Does everyone understand that the Governor of New Jersey told a group of students that their teachers do not care about learning? Does everyone think that's acceptable? - JJ]
May, 2010, Politico:
The teacher responded by saying that she has a master’s degree and that her current salary isn’t compensating her for the value of her higher education as well as her experience. 
To that, the governor responded: “Well, you know then that you don’t have to do it.” [Every good conservative knows women don't have to work...]
 March, 2010, Blue Jersey, quoting Christie directly:
"Teachers who crowded the statehouse on Monday to try to intimidate public officials like Assemblyman Schroeder and Assemblywoman Vandervalk into not voting for pension and benefit reform.
"And when one teacher was asked, "What are you doing here today? It's a Monday in the school year." She said, 'Oh, we got a substitute. I left a plan; it's not like they're watching videos or something.' 
"They. 'Not like they're watching videos or something.' I thought that was a really interesting part of the quote. That contraction: 'they're.' They didn't say 'the kids' then, did they? No, they only use the words 'the kids' when they want to evoke an emotional response from you which will get you to open your wallet and pay them. 
"When they're talking about protesting and fighting in Trenton, then it's 'they're.' 'They're watching videos or something.' I thought that was an interesting part of the quote. Language matters, ladies and gentlemen. Language is a window into attitude. And this isn't about the kids. So let's dispense with that portion of the argument. 
"And I have heard these stories over the last week, over and over again from all over New Jersey about teachers standing in front of classrooms, and lying about and excoriating the governor and the lieutenant governor." [This one is my personal favorite. He is criticizing a teacher for using a pronoun to describe her students. So, every time you hear Chris Christie use a pronoun to describe kids - or seniors, or taxpayers, or police, or the military, or whomever - understand that, by his definition, that's an insult. - JJ]

Did I really say all that? Oh, man, I really can act like a jerk...

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