New Jersey has a reputation as the foul smelling, filth spewing, corruption capital of the United States, but it's simply not true. Well, the first two parts aren't true anyway. But the reason our state gets that reputation, is probably because most people only see the heavily industrialized patch of ground between New York City and Newark airport. That area was once a teeming business center, but has long since been laid to waste by generations of liberal "tax and regulate" government policies, and the shattering of the local community by welfare and other big government giveback schemes of the 60's and 70's. Now it's a grime covered placeholder in the state that stands vacantly waiting for the local politicians to learn something about the last 75 years of economics.
Much of the area looks like some kind of urban post apocalyptic movie set. So much so in fact that when you see it from the highway, your imagination naturally adds the scenes of chain and leather clad biker gangs in hockey masks engaging in internecine tribal warfare over the last gallon of gasoline. Call it Mad Max 5, beyond the Pulaski skyway. I wonder if Mel Gibson would be willing to do a cameo? Anyway, it's a compelling picture of what happens to an urban area when things go wrong on a massive scale, and it creates an image that's really very tough to counter.
So you would think that for a place with such an image problem, we'd be a little more careful about who we choose as our spokesmen to the rest of the country, but we can't seem to learn our lesson. One of our Senators in Washington right now is Robert Menendez, a Hudson county lawyer who spent his political career hacking and slashing his way up through the Democratic political machine in Trenton. He was appointed to the seat of Senator Jon Corzine, by temporary governor Cody when Corzine was elected to replace Jim McGreevey as governor, after the latter resigned under a cloud of allegations. And our other Senator is the increasingly mummified Frank R. Lautenberg, who was earlier convinced by then still governor McGreevey to retake the Senate seat which Lautenberg had previously retired from, when then senator Robert "The Torch" Toricelli was indicted in his own corruption scandal. If you can keep all that straight without a superior court calendar, let me give you a quick overview of what our current Senate team stands for and how they affect the image of our great state.
They say the most dangerous place is Washington is anywhere between NY Senator Chuck Schumer and a news crew. But for that, and the fact that his geologic age is beginning to slow him down a bit, Frank Lautenberg would no doubt be known as the most vociferously anti-gun politician in the country. Senator Lautenberg is so anxious to disarm his fellow Americans, that he doesn't believe we should wait until they are convicted of a crime. He has proposed legislation that allows the confiscation of firearms for anyone even suspected of being a terrorist or on a terror watch list. Given the Senators past position, I'm betting that will be a long list in New Jersey.
Senator Lautenberg has been a constant friend to those small vocal groups who's PAC's call for more government controls on pretty much anything. He's been a reliable vote for adding restrictions and regulations to business when consumer groups ask for it, and he's been happy to add his short sighted perspective to whatever bill is fashionable, so long as the thing he's being asked to vote for will put more control of day to day life into the government's busy hands, and will reduce the choices of individual Americans. In short, he's a Paleolithic holdover from the good old days of the Democratic party when socialism at home and appeasement abroad were the order of the day. If his voting record is an indication, it seems that he firmly believes that there is no decision that any American makes, that couldn't be made better by a third level government bureaucrat.
One of these days, we'll have someone running for federal office in New Jersey who isn't already alleged to be under indictment, and when we do, Frankie's days may turn out to be numbered. Until then we can be sure that he'll be out there letting the rest of the country know that when it comes to political thinking, New Jersey is right out there on the cutting edge of the 1970's.
Ex-Governor McGreevey asked Frank to return to his Senate seat when Senator Robert Toricelli was forced to resign due to corruption allegations. A few months later, Governor McGreevey himself stepped down very publicly claiming that it was because he was gay. This came as a big disappointment to all the federal investigators and prosecutors who were swarming around Trenton, and were alleged to have plans to indict him later that same week on other corruption charges. The rumor at the time was that they got Frank out of the crypt because he was the only Democrat in New Jersey who wasn't being investigated by someone for something.
Robert Menendez was also accused of corruption but who in Hudson county politics hasn't? To be fair, The charges came from his opponent in his Senate reelection campaign, and even if it was true (which I do not allege here), it would have been a small time thing at most by New Jersey standards. Still in all, he has managed to make a name for himself on the national level in several ways.
First, he was the sponsor for the most unpopular "family unification" amendment of the almost universally unpopular Immigration Amnesty bill currently being worked through the back alleys of the system by Ted Kennedy and the Republican leadership. His amendment will expand amnesty from the currently 12 million illegal aliens in this country to all their family members. According to several sources, his amendment will increase the total count of amnesty recipients by nearly another million. Second, he's a vocal supporter of the deceptively named "employee free choice act" which allows unions the tools it needs to arm twist employees by denying them the right to a secret ballot when voting to unionize. After the effect that unions have had on the auto and airline industries, this seems like an attempt to make the rest of the state look more like the no mans land referred to above.
That's one admittedly dubious corruption allegation and 2 monumentally short sighted but high profile policy proposals in his first elected term. It's going to be a long time between elections if you ask me. And it's damned hard to get people to think of pastoral beauty when all your spokesmen can conjure is images of the Carter administration, and the wage and price control blowout of industrial America. Maybe next they'll propose we make Maureen McGovern's "The morning After" the state song... I wouldn't put it past them.
So for those of you from other states please try to remember that New Jersey isn't as bad as it may look from there. Much of our state is as rural and beautiful as anywhere in the country. It's just a few square miles, and a few carefully disposed of ballot boxes from Republican districts that make us seem otherwise. There are lots and lots of people here who think just as rationally as the rest of the country. The only problem is we're in a sort of political choke hold. Maybe the next time you pass by that no mans land near New York city, it would help to imagine we conservatives with our overturned school busses formed into a circle in the vacant parking lot, shooting fiery crossbow bolts out at the gathering socialist hoard. I know it feels exactly that way to many of us.