Corzine Proves Resilient, But Not Yet His Old Self

Corzine Proves Resilient, But Not Yet His Old Self

Publication: NYTimes
July 5, 2007
He has cut way back on his pain medication to an occasional dose of ibuprofen, his aides say. But he still tires easily, walks with a slight limp and shifts around in his chair to find the most comfortable position during long meetings.

He has relished having the time to sift through the finer grains of public policy, as exemplified last week by a spirited defense of his long-marinating plan to restructure the finances of New Jersey's toll roads. Still, his public appearances have been far fewer and more cursory, and he spends most days at his temporary quarters at the governor's mansion in Princeton, often awaiting visitors or doing arduous physical therapy.

To a certain extent, it is remarkable that people are even talking about Gov. Jon S. Corzine in the present tense, since he lost half his blood and suffered more than a dozen broken bones in April after his speeding state vehicle crashed into a guardrail on the Garden State Parkway. His rehabilitation, by all accounts, has been impressive, with a determined Mr. Corzine frequently exceeding doctors' expectations.

[He even walked in two Fourth of July parades on Wednesday, one in Paramus and the other in Montclair.]

Yet, as Mr. Corzine girds for several battles this year on issues that include coming up with a plan to extract billions in revenue from the New Jersey Turnpike and financing public education, it would be premature, friends and associates say, to assume that he is back to normal, or that his rehabilitation is almost over.

"He appears to be less guarded in his speech and mannerisms, perhaps as a result of his injuries and persistent discomfort and frustration,'' said Scott L. Kisch, a longtime friend and adviser who is now chief of staff at the state's Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.

For one thing, Mr. Corzine's workday more closely resembles a typical Trenton bureaucrat's than that of a hard-charging Goldman Sachs co-chairman, which is what he was before turning to politics.

''I'm probably working four or five hours less a day just because my energy level is just a little less than before the accident,'' the governor said in a radio interview last week.

At the same time, Mr. Corzine, a Democrat, seems more determined to push his agenda, and less concerned about ruffling political feathers.

''I think there was more of a concern last year as to who he may be upsetting with what he does,'' said State Senator Raymond J. Lesniak, a Democrat from Union County. ''I think he's going to set a course now and go straight for the goal line.''

But before he tries to cut toward the goal line, which would be hard with the cane he usually uses, he has to train. According to Lilo H. Stainton, who was named Mr. Corzine's new press secretary in June, the 60-year-old governor has two physical therapy sessions each day lasting a total of four hours at Drumthwacket, the governor's mansion that he retrofitted at his own expense. She said that his regimen includes riding a stationary bicycle, doing weight training with his mending fractured left leg, using an elliptical exercise machine and swimming in a heated pool.

It is exhausting work, and Mr. Corzine, who has not put on any of the 30 pounds that he lost after the accident, still sneaks in an occasional nap. In addition, he gets up a little later and usually goes to bed earlier than in the past.

Mr. Corzine ventures to the State House here only once or twice a week. Instead, he has been conducting most government business at Drumthwacket, usually on an outdoor patio behind the mansion.

And sometimes he ventures beyond Trenton or Princeton, though not at his previous pace. In June 2006, for instance, Mr. Corzine made at least 26 public appearances, including as many as four in one day. During the same period this year, he made 12 official appearances, including four funerals and one quick appearance, two blocks from his Hoboken apartment, to vote in the Democratic primary.

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