By ALAN J. STEINBERG
August 30, 2010
I will always be most proud to have served in the administration of former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman. She was an outstanding Governor, with a superb record and legacy of tax reduction, fiscal conservatism, and open space protection.
In terms of economic development, Christie Whitman was one of the most successful governors in the nation during the past fifty years. She also was a person of unquestionable ethics and integrity. Future New Jersey historians will certainly treat her far better than her contemporaries do.
And, to top it off, Christie Whitman had style — true grace, class, gravitas, and dignity.
I had a chance to see the remarkable effectiveness of the Whitman style during the first term of her administration. As Assistant Commissioner to Gil Medina, then the Commissioner of the former Department of Commerce and Economic Development, I would often ask Governor Whitman to call chief executive officers of companies I was trying to bring to New Jersey.
I cannot overstate how effective she was in persuading these executives that New Jersey government was truly business friendly. Christie Whitman was indeed New Jersey’s best ambassador to America’s business community and the nation at large during the 1990s.
mcmahonwhitman083010_optRecently, however, I have noticed what appears to me to be an effort by Connecticut Republican U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon to emulate the Whitman style. If that is McMahon’s intention, I do not blame her – the Whitman campaign style has always been supremely effective.
McMahon, the husband of World Wrestling Entertainment chief executive officer Vince McMahon is a candidate in what now appears to be a most winnable race against Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. A Rasmussen Reports poll released August 11 shows McMahon trailing Democrat Blumenthal by only seven points, 47 to 40. The gap has narrowed substantially from the thirteen point gap in the July 15 Rasmussen Poll in which Blumenthal led McMahon 53 to 40.
In June, when the Rasmussen Poll showed Blumenthal leading McMahon by 23 points, 56 to 33, virtually all pundits believed that the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Chris Dodd would certainly remain in Democratic hands. This race is now definitely in play, and the outcome may well decide whether the Republicans win that 51st seat necessary to gain control of the U.S. Senate.
There are two reasons why the race is now in play. The first is the nationwide deep decline in the personal popularity and approval ratings of President Barack Obama. The second is the outright lies (let us not mince words) of Blumenthal in which he claimed to have served in Vietnam during that tragic conflict.
This second factor is one most offensive to me. I served during the Vietnam era as an officer in the United States Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps. I freely admit that I did not have the courage of Christie Whitman’s husband, John, who served bravely in Vietnam, as did thousands of other Americans, many of whom gave their lives.
My draft lottery number was the same as Bill Mazeroski’s baseball uniform number: 9. I was determined to avoid Vietnam service, and I joined the Northwestern University NROTC unit, where I played the glockenspiel in the Drum and Bugle Corps and marched in the Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, after which I was introduced to the joys of drinking hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s.
My midshipman cruise took me to England, Scotland, and Norway aboard the USS Edward McDonnell (DE-1043), where I hardly impressed my superior officers as a future Admiral Bull Halsey. If anything, I reminded them of Ensign Parker on the television show, McHale’s Navy. While in England, my most notable achievement was attending the Isle of Wight rock festival, where I saw those two great military figures, Joni Mitchell and Tiny Tim.
So our nation and military were much better off when I received a delay of active duty to attend the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1971. After graduation, I served as a Navy lawyer in Philadelphia, where the major arena of physical conflict was at Veterans’ Stadium on Sunday afternoons during Philadelphia Eagles games.
I am not proud of my avoidance of Vietnam service, but I am honest about it and have nothing but the highest respect for Vietnam veterans who had the courage that I lacked. The same cannot be said about the mendacious Dick Blumenthal, who served in a Marine reserve unit noted for its participation in Toys for Tots drives.
So I fervently want to see McMahon defeat Blumenthal. I really don’t know if she is deliberately trying to emulate the Whitman style, but I don’t blame her if she is. I just don’t think she can pull it off. There are two things in McMahon’s background that make it difficult to for her to become a second Christie Whitman.
The first is the fact that Vince McMahon named his yacht “Sexy Bitch”. I don’t know if the Whitmans own a yacht, but I can’t see John Whitman giving such a name to any seafaring vessel he would possess.
The second is an incident that has gone viral on YouTube, namely Linda’s “firing” of World Wrestling Entertainment broadcaster and executive Jim Ross in the wrestling ring, followed by her “kicking” him in the genitals. Now I realize that this was all an act, as are most actions in the world of professional wrestling. This is not exactly, however, something you would ever see Christie Whitman do.
Doubtless, the Blumenthal campaign will show the YouTube of the Linda McMahon “kick” ad nauseum during the campaign. This does not have to be damaging to Linda McMahon, however. Her best strategy is to be frank and honest and actually laugh about some of the humorous hijinks she participated in during her years as an executive with World Wrestling Entertainment. As long as Connecticut voters think she is honest with them, this should contrast well with the duplicity and prevarications of Blumenthal.
So Linda McMahon, you’re no Christie Whitman! But you are honest, intelligent, and likable, and that should be good enough for you to win this election and take office as U.S. Senator Linda McMahon in January, 2011.