If the USSR still existed, Governor Christie's "town hall" meetings would be the envy of the Communist regime's Propaganda Ministry. Funded by the state and with enough half-truths to make the information seem reliable, Christie's approach is not fundamentally different than that of the failed Soviet regime - and it has to stop.
Since the beginning of the Republic, elected executives have used the "bully pulpit" to advance their agendas. But Christie has mastered this forum to the point where these gatherings provide good entertainment but little substantive discussion - the type of give-and-take that a traditional town hall meeting is supposed to promote.
The Governor has every right to bash his political opponents. His First Amendment rights allow him to call an assemblywoman "a jerk" and urge the press to "take a bat" to a member of the Senate leadership. The voters can judge his character based on his behavior and language.
But the governor does not have the right to spew his political propaganda on the taxpayer's dime. These "town hall" meetings are not inexpensive. There are costs for transportation, security, facility rental, and most egregiously, the governor's cadre of videographers, bloggers, and tweeters who continue to politicize the one-sided messages coming from the Tsar of Trenton. And the background wallpaper of GOP elected officials and acolytes just adds to the partisan tone of these events that we are paying for.
So far, Christie has held 75 of these propaganda sessions. I've attended a couple of them myself, although given that they are held during the day, I wonder how many middle-class working people have been shut out of the discussions.
The idea is a good one if it is allowed to play out the right way. Allowing ordinary citizens to question their leader directly is a good concept. But how many ordinary citizens have the courage of someone like Marie Corfield to take on the bully-in-chief directly?
Christie loves attention and loves confrontation, so this misuse of taxpayer funds will continue. But there's a way to right these wrongs. Let the so-called "town halls" continue, but make them true town halls. Christie should invite a member of the Democratic leadership to join him at each one of these events. Let the public hear a debate instead of propaganda. Allowing the opposing party an equal opportunity to present its views is the American way.