The Star-Ledger’s passionate, public love affair with Cami Anderson is now sliding into political porn. The newspaper’s latest editorial is a gushing, embarrassing, big wet kiss for Chris Christie’s agent in Newark. “She needs help!” cries out the knight errant editorial writer who boldly and proudly wears her scarf as he plunges into battle, a Lancelot who also was busy today apologizing for endorsing Christie. “She cannot do it alone,” he trumpets. Huzzah!
Breathless. I hear hearts beating wildly, don’t you? I hear panting. Heaving. The poor woman–out there all by herself surrounded by evil enemies. She needs, well, she needs “civic and religious leaders to step up and be counted.” She needs charter school families to rush to her side.
Oh, please, come quickly! All ye knights of noble Christieland and ye will be rewarded by the governor-king for rescuing this damsel in distress! Charter schools for “religious leaders.” Campaign support and maybe Sandy aid for “civic leaders” like Joe D. Bond counsel positions for the sale of New Market Charter School Bonds.
Save her! Save her because–oh, my God!–she “is on the ropes.” Whoa! Mean, big, ugly, shrieking “provocateurs” wish to–oh, no, Heaven forfend, I just can’t bring myself to say what unspeakable, indecent things these beasts will do to this fair flower of Christieland. A fate worse than death, truly.
“And if she is knocked down, it will be the children of this city who bear the real loss.”
(By the way, I was at the meeting Anderson ran from. Neither she nor anyone else was ever in any danger–well, yes, the people kept outside were threatened with frostbite. But, inside, the police had matters well in hand. The meeting was loud and contentious, but it was not disrupted. Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson did a masterful job of handling the raw emotions on display–and she deserves credit for her work as head of the school board. And The Star-Ledger should immediately stop depicting critics of her “One Newark” plan as wild animals who threaten her. I think this repeated imagery crosses the line into racist invective.)
Never before have I seen such adolescent drivel offered as a serious newspaper’s editorial position. I have lived and worked through governors since Richard Hughes. I have winced at editorials before. But this needs some sort of special award for fecklessness in print.
This woman shouldn’t be vilified? Here are seven good reasons why she should not just be vilified but fired immediately (only one of which is, sort of, mentioned by a Star-Ledger that assiduously avoids the truth about what is going on in town):
1. She sent a letter to Newark’s families that, while blaming the unions for abiding by the law governing attendance at conventions, managed to insult the children by saying they would get into trouble and cause the crime rate to go up because they were out of school. When she got nailed by brave principals who refused to send the letter out, she withdrew it and lied about it, saying it was merely a “draft.” Yeah–a draft, signed and on official stationery sent home to thousands of children.
2. She hired a school principal who was caught stealing public money and canoodling with a subordinate and who was banned forever from working in the New York City Schools. A bold, sensible reform? This makes her what the editorial calls “an expert educator”?
3. She hired an assistant superintendent who awarded a busing contract to her brother, hired another sibling, and presided over a cheating scandal at a New Orleans charter schools. Another “bold and sensible” reform?
4. She sent the same assistant superintendent to a school to tear down legally posted notices of a parent meeting and, when the PTO president tried to stop the lady from New Orleans, she was allowed to bring over-the-top aggravated assault charges against him that could put him in the slammer for three to five years.
5. She banned the same PTO president from entering the school his children attend.
6. When every school in Essex and neighboring counties was closed because of a declared snow emergency–including Newark’s charter schools–she insisted on making the children come in despite the dangerous conditions. Ah, yes, it will be the “children’s loss” if Anderson resigns, the editorial sobs.
7. A week later, in the middle of another snow emergency–after keeping schools open until a few minutes before class began–she closed them, stranding thousands of children and employees. Again, children will lose if she leaves?
Cami Anderson is no damsel in distress. She is a tough partisan who punishes dissent swiftly and harshly. She is a devoted ally of a governor who has proved himself a bare-knuckles street fighter. Anderson is as much a political creature as anyone who opposes her and should be treated dispassionately–or, at least, fairly–by the state’s largest newspaper. Treating her like a poor, isolated victim is a feverish teenager’s dream.
Perhaps, if the newspaper covered the city schools fairly and comprehensively, it would learn the truth about what has happened, the truth about Anderson and her blunders, attacks on employees, and misguided hiring decisions. Then, maybe, its editorials might regain some sense of maturity, some credibility.
Editorials from a serious newspaper are not Harlequin Romances.