One afternoon last month, at the modern, airy headquarters of the N.J.E.A., I sat with Barbara Keshishian, the union’s president, and Vincent Giordano, its executive director, and listened as they tried to puzzle out why it was that Christie seemed so determined to humiliate them.
“Frankly, I for one don’t say we’re always 100 percent right on every single issue, and certainly neither is the administration across the street,” said Giordano, a bald and goateed organizer who has been at the union for 40 years. “The difference is the tone and the mean-spiritedness of the way he talks about us. He has made us basically the whipping boy for anything that goes wrong in New Jersey and the country and in Bangladesh if there’s an earthquake. It seems that we’re just the cause of all the problems in our society today.
“I don’t know what he’s got buried down there inside of him that causes him to be this totally driven,” Giordano said. “I don’t think he’s really supportive of a public-education system. If he was, he might send his kids to public school, which he doesn’t.” (Christie and his wife, Mary Pat, a bond trader, have four children, ages 7 to 17, and all attend Catholic schools.) “I think he’s not very enamored with public services in general. Public employees, public education, public pension systems — somehow he’s allergic to the word ‘public.’ Somebody ought to get him some kind of medication that gets him off of that allergy he has to anything that’s public.”
These don’t seem like savvy, effective voices. They sound like people who have never had to be savvy or effective to get their way in Trenton.