A frequently voiced assessment of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy in these early days of his administration is that he has become the second coming of former Governor Jon Corzine.
This is hardly flattering to Murphy, a plutocrat having common Wall Street roots with Corzine at Goldman Sachs. Murphy is now described as having similar political and personal characteristics with Corzine as well: a political “tin ear”, a need to establish himself as the “smartest person in the room,” a disdain for legislators and the legislative process, and a thorough lack of understanding of the axiom that politics is the art of the possible.
Like Corzine, the new governor can best be characterized as an elitist limousine liberal who embraces the Progressive Democrat movement that threatens to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the 2018 midterm Congressional elections. And similarly to Corzine in his early days as governor, Murphy seems destined to become the Friedrich Engels of New Jersey when he advocates the interests of New Jersey governmental state workers against the management whom he is supposed to represent.
Yet unlike Corzine, there is a profound lack of genuineness in Murphy’s outward comportment. The new governor affects a phony revulsion to the use of profanity. Yet in the book, The Partnership: The Making of Goldman-Sachs, author Charles D. Ellis states that Murphy, in working with his Goldman Sachs colleagues, “swore and drank like the unabashed Irishman he was.” His phony aversion to profanity only makes more vivid the image of Murphy as being immersed in out-of-touch snobbery. Phil Murphy is no Harry Truman.
Murphy’s Wall Street background, however, does not have to preclude him from becoming a successful New Jersey governor. Indeed, there is an archetypal example for Murphy to emulate of a Wall Street executive who achieved remarkable success as a governmental chief executive as well.
I speak of Michael Bloomberg, a Wall Street giant who compiled an excellent record as mayor of New York City, the financial and in many ways governmental capital of the world. As Regional Administrator of Region 2 USEPA during the second term of the presidential administration of George W. Bush, I worked directly with Michael Bloomberg and his staff. The experience was both an honor and pleasure.
Bloomberg served three terms, elected as a Republican in 2001 and 2005 and as the standard bearer of the Republican and Independence Party in 2009. During his tenure as mayor, he pursued a center-left agenda, as distinguished from the Progressive far left-wing Democrat agendas of Corzine and Murphy. His top aides and cabinet officials were far more politically competent than those of Corzine and Murphy.
Bloomberg maintained a good relationship with the Bush 43 administration in which I served and always treated me personally with utmost respect, as he did with heads of other governmental agencies. He didn’t have a need to prove that he was “the smartest person in the room”, but instead, welcomed advice from his aides, cabinet officials, and heads of partnering agencies, like myself. The open “no closed doors, bullpen trading floor” of his office at City Hall was emblematic of his most successful style as mayor.
One amusing attitude I shared with Bloomberg. We both despised the disgraced former New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer!
Bloomberg is no longer a Republican, but an Independent who raises money and donates to worthy candidates of both parties. He has an utter revulsion to the vile character and bigoted and disastrous policies of Donald Trump, a revulsion I share. This has resulted in his raising and donating to the Democratic Party $80 million in order that they may capture control of both houses of Congress in the 2018 elections.
A personal note: There is talk of Bloomberg running for president either as a Democrat or Independent in 2020. If he runs, he will have my full enthusiastic support, even though he will be 78 years old at that time.
Abjuring the Corzine model and emulating the Bloomberg style of government will not guarantee Phil Murphy success. But it certainly wouldn’t hurt him.
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman.