Anybody who saw the U.S Department of Education video that contradicted Governor Chris Christie's statements about New Jersey's "Race To The Top" application, and who heard Christie on NJ101.5 yesterday evening, knew that someone was going to be fired or resign today.
The only question was who? Bret Schundler, someone who worked under Schundler, or both.
Just in case you've heard Senate President Sweeney's babble or the NJEA's squeals on the matter, Schundler wasn't shown the door because NJ lost out on $400 million in federal education dollars due to a missing page in the application. Schundler was fired because he wasn't completely straight with his boss, Governor Christie.
The Governor's office has been careful not to use the L word today regarding Schundler. But the message was clear. If Schundler didn't outright lie, he wasn't straight enough. When your on a team with Christie, or someone who performs at the level which Christie performs there is no room for parsing of words or being cute. When your playing a supporting role to someone like Christie, there is no room for misunderstanding--the player in the supporting role must make sure the boss understands. Being on a team with Christie requires the level of trust that flying trapeze performers have for each other. If a flying trapeze performer doesn't trust that his partner will be there to catch him he can't swing out. If he trusts his partner, swings out and his partner isn't there to catch him he crashes, hopefully into a net.
As we have seen over the last eight months, Christie swings way out and flys. He so trusted Schundler's account of what happened with the RTT application that he was swinging out in a classic performance. For the second time in two weeks rhetorically taking on the Obama administration. Schundler left Christie exposed. He was swinging from a bad rope and crashed. With that trust broken Schundler could no longer be on the team.
Schundler's performance in the last 24 hours since Christie saw the video is more embarrassing than the error that caused the termination. He should have submitted his resignation when it was requested and avoided the press at least through the weekend.
His statement that he did not resign because he needs unemployment benefits until he gets a job, and that the administration when along with that, is appalling. He obviously was not thinking clearly. Understandably so. His instincts were good when he told Politickernj, "I don't want to talk right now." He shouldn't have talked to the Star Ledger either.
Senate Minority Leader Barbara Buono jumped all over this, according to the Ledger, accusing Christie of perpetuating a fraud by allowing Schundler to collect unemployment benefits:
State Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex), said she was "just blown away" that the governor agreed to fire Schundler after asking for his resignation and said Christie "should be accountable under the law of helping to perpetrate a fraud."
"The facts as I understand them, the stated purpose of asking the governor's office to fire him instead of resigning, was so he will then qualify to receive unemployment benefits from the State of New Jersey that he would not otherwise qualify for," Buono said.
Schundler is not going to get unemployment benefits.
The statement issued by the Governor's press secretary Mike Drewniak early this evening makes it clear that Schundler was terminated for cause:
“We regret that Mr. Schundler continues to sully his own image by engaging in revisionist history. His attempts to cover up misleading the Governor are evidenced by the contrast between his letter to Secretary Duncan, in which he describes making a verbal clarification at the presentation, and the video released by the U.S. Department of Education. Mr. Schundler was the Administration’s only source for what occurred in the Race to the Top presentation. All of the Governor’s statements were based on Mr. Schundler’s account.”
That's going to be hard to overcome when the unemployment office calls for an interview. Then again, you never know with the folks at the unemployment office. I've had an employee get benefits for six months even when I told the interviewer I wanted the person to come back to work immediately.
A guy like Schundler shouldn't need unemployment benefits, which max out at $600 per week, anyway. For $600 per week he can sell advertising and write for MoreMonmouthMusings until he lands on his feet. I'm sure I'm not the only business person who would put him to work.
Schundler's performance is not the only sad spectacle of the day.
Trenton Democrats, Sweeney, Oliver, Diegnan, and the NJEA are enjoying the first misstep of the Christie administration with glee. Yet their spin is that Christie is making Schundler the scapegoat for losing out of the $400 million. They probably just can't imagine firing someone for lying.
Christie did what he had to do. I hope the Democrats' partisan and disingenous attacks keep coming, because I want the combative Chris Christie back. I'd rather see him sparring with Sweeney, Oliver and the unions than President Obama, as he did in both the RTT and Mosque press conferences. As we enter campaign season, I'd rather see him taking shots at Frank Pallone, Rush Holt and John Adler, than President Obama. Christie should stop taking shots at Obama and get back to turning Trenton upside down, especially if he wants to quell the speculation that he is running for President.