One thing you have to say about New Jersey governor Chris Christie: he certainly doesn’t fit the mold.

That’s not a fat joke, it’s an honest assessment about the first term Republican’s unwillingness to toe the party line when it doesn’t suit him.

We have justifiably criticized Christie’s more conservative policies since he took office: his vilification of the state’s public employees, his eagerness to weaken labor unions and the collective bargaining process, and his outright hostility toward New Jersey’s hard working teachers cannot be ignored or rationalized.

When he’s wrong, and he very often is—we say so. As an independent media outlet, that is our obligation.

But that also means that on those occasions when he gets it right, we are obligated to say that, too. And this time, Christie got it right.

When he announced earlier this week that he would order New Jersey’s public buildings to fly their flags at half-staff on Saturday to honor Whitney Houston, the howls of protest went up immediately from Christie’s conservative brethren—both in the Garden State and across the country.

The reasons given for the protests were suspicious at best. Houston didn’t deserve the honor because she wasn’t a public official or a fallen soldier whose body was returned home. She was just an entertainer—she didn’t cure a disease or create thousands of jobs. But the most often cited reason: She was a drug addict and therefore somehow forfeits any official recognition.

Never mind that New Jersey bestowed the same honor on sax master Clarence Clemons, and before that on Frank Sinatra. Conservatives were angry at Christie, and they let him know it.

Instead of caving to intense political pressure from his own supporters, Christie stood his ground. He hushed the substance abuse talk with a single compassionate sentence, “What I would say to everybody is, ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’”

Calling Houston “daughter of New Jersey”, Christie said that he was disturbed by the cruelty of the criticism. “I just reject that on a human level,” he said.

So New Jersey’s flags flew at half-staff to honor a native daughter whose soaring, triumphant voice provided the soundtrack for an entire generation. And New Jersey’s governor proved that, like him or not, he is a man of conviction who sticks to his guns.

When you’re right, that’s an admirable character trait. And this time, he’s right.

(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune.)

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