Christie's mixed message

Chris Christie can’t seem to help it.

The governor’s budget speech Tuesday in Trenton was a masterful marathon by a politician at the peak of his powers.

Another bravura performance.

That is, until Christie…just had to go there.

“It’s not enough and it’s not appropriate, to simply tell our most challenged urban families, trapped in over 200 failing schools, that ‘life’s not fair,’ the governor declared, lashing out yet again (in all but name this time) at Vincent Giordano.

The executive director of Christie’s perpetual piñata -- otherwise known as the New Jersey Education Association --  Giordano made his now-immortal “life’s not fair” comment about economically disadvantaged students in the final moments of a TV interview almost three weeks ago. The governor is still making hay out of those ill-advised words, and Giordano has pretty much responded in kind; both men have demanded the other resign.

Having recently weathered a national tongue-lashing for what he ultimately called an “inartfully” rendered sentence that sounded to some like an attempt to rewrite the history of civil rights, Christie really ought to refrain from gaffe-bashing.

But he can’t, or won’t, even during an otherwise powerful presentation about the budget.

When he lashes out, Christie sounds petty. He sounds, and looks, like a bully.

Speaking of appearances, Christie’s jab at Giordano reminds me of watching the governor during his signature “town hall” meetings.

In the dark suits that subdue his bulk, Christie is commanding, persuasive, even inspiring.

But when he doffs the jacket and works the crowd in his shirtsleeves?

Not so much.