Booker, Christie Highlight Chamber’s Congressional Dinner

By David Cruz

“I leave you tonight with a heart full of gratitude,” Gov. Chris Christie said.

Christie sounded almost wistful as he delivered for the final time as governor remarks at the Chamber of Commerce’s 80th Congressional Dinner. But never one to linger in sentimentality for too long, the governor used some of his speech to warn voters about what to expect from his successor.

“Let me caution you that any governor who says yes to you more often than he or she says no is only saying yes to you with you money,” he said. “Beware. When they want your vote, the craven ones will just say yes.”

While Christie’s speech hinted at an end, the speech by Sen. Cory Booker sounded very much like the early drafts of what will become a regular stump speech.

“Especially in this political climate, we have got to begin to see each other with more courageous empathy and understand that we desperately need each other,” Booker said.

But the senator insists he’s not looking to 2020 and doesn’t like to be asked about it.

“It’s troublesome to see the president of the United States, evidence what I think are number one, attention to fake statistics — literally things that are just not right. So a lack of attention to detail, a lack of truth telling, someone who also seems to be much more interested in their own ego issues of popularity and the like than the pressing issues of the day,” he said.

Booker and Christie aside, the speeches were at best politely ignored. Increasingly the dinner here is an appetizer that many intend to skip.

Is there any value to regular gatherings like this? “I think it’s healthy. I really, really would love to see them bring this back to New Jersey. You know, I kind of make this call every single year. We have 12 congressmen and two U.S. senators, and this means no disrespect to them, but they can come back to New Jersey and use the dollars that are being spent on this to help New Jersey’s economy,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney.

The session not to be missed on the Walk to Washington now is the morning-after live version of Michael Aron’s Reporters Roundtable, featuring the sagacity of pundits like Nick Acocella of Politifax and The Record’s Washington correspondent Herb Jackson.

“I don’t know how the Democrats seem to be reeling even more than the Republicans, it seems to me, and I don’t know how they come back,” Acocella said.

“You have the makings of a left-wing Tea Party movement growing, and even though Sen. [Bernie] Sanders gets outraged when you say that because he believes the Tea Party was the creation of the Koch brothers and movement on the left is more organic than that, but the fact of the matter is that the Tea Party movement in 2009 and 2010 pulled the Republican caucus to the right. If it pulls the Democrats in New Jersey to the left, that could cause some damage to that,” said Jackson.

The ride back to Jersey is often referred to as the “snooze cruise” because after all the networking, snoozing is all anybody has any energy for.