New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy delivered the followig speech at the Spring Gridiron Dinner on Saturday, March 11, 2023:
I have to thank the Gridiron Club for having me tonight. I was supposed to be here last spring, but I had to opt out because I got COVID.
It’s a shame … turns out, I would have fit right in.
Mr. Vice President, it is a real honor to be with you tonight. I don’t want to alarm you, but I couldn’t help but notice you left some of your other papers up here. (Murphy held up a red folder that said “Top Secret.”
Is this a love letter from Kim Jung Un? Wait, no, it is a love letter from … Mike Pompeo?! And it’s pretty spicy!
Actually, I have some advice for the Vice President, as well as Presidents Trump and Biden …
… Four words. High security microcut shredder. Take it from a New Jersey politician: this is a wonderful product.
For the record, I wouldn’t know first hand because I’m old school. Back home, when you’re in a jam, you tie a stack of documents to a cement block and toss ‘em in the Hudson River …
… Along with the guy who leaked ‘em.
Also, if I may, a quick aside … whether it’s Vice President Pence or anyone else on the Republican ledger, here’s some advice. You can’t run against Donald Trump and act like subtlety will do the trick!
What’s with all this tiptoeing around him?
When the Vice President is asked if he is going to run, he says he “hopes there will be better choices.”
Nikki Haley says it’s “time for new leadership” … and that we should “look to the future…”
Look, I’m not in the business of giving Republicans advice … and frankly I think you’re nuts to run against Trump … but if you’re gonna do it, you’ve got to have some nuts.
Come on, Nikki can’t be the only one.
By the way I was nervous about doing that joke, but the woman who wrote it for me told me to grow a pair.
Having said that, Mr. Vice President, we were all hoping that you might tell us tonight if you are going to run in 2024 … please, don’t leave us hanging!
It’s also an honor to share the stage with my friend, Secretary of State Tony Blinken.
Now, not a lot of people realize that in a previous life Secretary Blinken produced a vampire movie. It’s true!
Who knew that an expert on lifeless bloodsucking creatures would succeed in politics?
That’s right … we’ve let a vampire movie producer become Secretary of State. I think we all owe Herschel Walker an apology.
Now, as happy as I am to be here, I’m aware that half the room is thinking: “Why Phil Murphy?”
And of course, the other half is thinking: “Who’s Phil Murphy?”
Now, I do have some credentials to participate in an event like this.
While at Harvard, I was part of the legendary Hasty Pudding Theatricals, where I spent four years doing musical theater and comedy.
There was also a fair amount of cross-dressing involved … and, by the way, I understand that the Hasty Pudding is now banned in 15 states.
But I wish you all could have seen our cabaret with our class president, valedictorian, and dear friend, George Santos.
But, I am extremely excited to be here tonight. My mantra for tonight is that old saying, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, there’s a good chance you’ll take down a Chinese Weather Balloon.”
Still, I have been asked to get up here and tell jokes. And, as a Democrat, I exist in a target-rich environment.
But, I don’t want to go too hard on my fellow Democrats, whom I love.
It goes back to my childhood. As a kid, two pictures hung side-by-side in our kitchen: the Pope and John F. Kennedy. My parents wanted to honor the man they saw as closest to God … they also liked the Pope.
Listen, I believe the ultimate test of good messaging is whether it can fit on a bumper sticker. Yet, for us Democrats the only thing our sticker would fit on is an 18-wheeler.
Actually, the entire side … of an 18-wheeler.
And then there’s the problem of how few Democrats have ever driven in an 18-wheeler.
Now meanwhile, Republicans keep it simple. “More guns, less choice.” That fits on a bicycle.
But then they’d never be caught dead on a bicycle … unless you’re Matt Gaetz pedaling around local high schools.
Ultimately though, I’m not here tonight to raise my profile. I’m not here on behalf of the Democrats, or my fellow governors.
No, I’m here at the Gridiron because for too long, the comedy world has besmirched the good name of my beloved New Jersey.
Yes, we can be a bit rough around the edges. For example, last year I signed an April Fools’ executive order replacing our current state bird with the real New Jersey “state bird” … and absolutely no one batted an eyelash.
We’re also tough as nails. When Hurricane Sandy battered us, we came together in common purpose to rebuild the Jersey Shore.
And when Chris Christie was caught lounging on the Shore … we came together again to give him an enormous amount of shit.
And, trust me, that work goes on.
But, for all our differences, Chris and I do have at least one thing in common. For the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, we’re both currently polling at zero.
Anyway, I love New Jersey. I’m proud that my state has opened its arms to immigrants … and expanded reproductive freedoms …that we’ve brought in a booming television and film sector … and we’re building out our wind energy industry.
I love that we’re cool again.
But what I most love about being a politician in New Jersey … is that I don’t have to be one in DC. Because if you think things are weird where I come from … just look around this place.
The Real Housewives of New Jersey don’t hold a candle to the Real Congresswomen of the Freedom Caucus.
I mean, seeing Marjorie Taylor Greene, in a white fur coat, interrupt the State of the Union to scream “liar” at the President of the United States … yeah, that’s too Jersey, even for Jersey.
And things are just different here.
In New Jersey, we have a strict policy of “snitches get stitches.”
Here in DC, snitches get quoted in Politico as, “a source familiar with the president’s thinking.”
In Jersey, our retirees spend their golden years golfing.
In Washington, the average senior citizen is gearing up to run for president.
And, to all my senior colleagues who are considering the presidency, I know the White House seems appealing. But there are easier ways to secure 24/7 in-home care.
By the way, I currently serve as chairman of both the National Governors Association and the Democratic Governors Association.
And the roles are pretty different. At one, it’s my job to build bridges with Republicans. And at the other, it’s my job to blow them up.
Though, as governor of New Jersey, I must clarify … I’m speaking only in metaphor when it comes to messing with bridges.
Really, my biggest fear as NGA chair is sending the wrong email to the wrong group. For instance, one slip and I could end up forwarding Jared Polis’ kale salad recipe to Ron DeSantis … who I hear is planning to ban kale as “woke lettuce.”
I just legalized “woke lettuce…”
Now, in all seriousness, I do actually have to thank Ron DeSantis. Why?
Well, Governor “Florida Man” has managed to do for his state what was once dismissed as impossible … displace New Jersey as the national punchline.
Still, I have my doubts about his presidential prospects. It’s tough enough to beat one incumbent president … let alone two.
Speaking of which, I think President Biden has a very strong case to make in 2024.
I know some people have claimed that the president is getting too old to run again. If he wins he’d be 81 at his second inauguration.
But if Donald Trump were to win, he’d be 78! That’s just three years.
Although, I will say this … three years can be a big age difference, just ask Matt Gaetz.
And I feel for the President. I really do. It’s got to be frustrating hearing the same questions over and over again.
“Are you up for another brutal campaign?” … “How can you be sure that you can keep doing the job?” … “Isn’t it time to pass the torch to a younger generation?”
And those are just the ones coming from Gavin Newsom.
But we shouldn’t be so quick to push the President out of office. After all, he is a dedicated public servant.
And he respects the essential role of journalists. He sees them as people … not the enemy of the people. We need more of that and not less.
I think of the late New Jersey Governor Brendan Byrne, who warned against letting … “lawless men to be leaders in a lawful society.”
Today, there’s no shortage of lawless men – people who seek power at any cost, even at the cost of democracy itself.
But our greatest asset in fighting them is the press. So, I’ll end with my gratitude … and a request.
First: thank you for protecting not only a lawful society … but a free and fair one, too.
And second: in this moment where the truth is under attack…where journalism itself faces existential challenges…keep going … keep asking … keep digging.
And … if that digging brings you to New Jersey, just let me know if you find Jimmy Hoffa.
Thank you, and good night!