by John R. Bohrer
I’m going to need a job, David, after 2013, you know? And so whether it’s going to be being governor of New Jersey or doing something else, I have four kids between 7 and 17 — I’m working the rest of my life anyway. So it’s going to be doing something, David, so maybe it’ll be that. Who knows? — Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), Meet The Press, 7 November 2010.
I love it when millionaires pretend they have Ordinary People problems. The implication is that Chris Christie is just another Jersey working stiff, sweating it out in the streets of a runaway American dream. The Kevin James of governors.
Now get this: in 2009, Chris Christie was technically unemployed — running for governor all year, he did not have “a job, David.” Yet that same year, his household income went up by almost $100,000.
That’s right: in this crash economy that Obama is supposedly strangling with the strength of ten Kenyan anti-colonialists, Mrs. Christie saw her Wall Street salary rebound, big time — oh? You didn’t know that Mary Pat Christie is a senior vice president in the high-yield corporate bond department of Cantor Fitzgerald? No? Gee, it’s strange that the in-depth Today Show profile less than a week after their tax returns went public made no mention of her profession, listing her only as “CHRIS CHRISTIE’S WIFE,” even though she is the family’s breadwinner.
And what a loaf it is. The Christies earned something around $596,000 in 2009. You remember 2009.
Unless Christie plans to send his kids to school the Meg Whitman way — “YOU get a ‘residential college’! And YOU get a ‘residential college’!” — I think he’s going to be able to retire with a decent modicum of comfort.
Because consider this: the governor of New Jersey makes $175,000 a year. Now, add that to 2010’s even-better Wall Street gains. If that’s the Jersey death trap suicide rap, baby, sign me up. I am born to run.
Christie, on the other hand, is not. At least not in 2012, anyway.
Right now, Christie’s breaking a lot of hearts on the right by playing the ‘No way, no how’ card. Some admirers are so convinced that he is the person to beat Obama in 2012 that they think the administration is actively trying to take him out. As proof, they point to a new Justice Department report detailing his taste for the high life. Turns out Christie was the fairest U.S. Attorney of them all, regularly billing taxpayers for fancy hotel rooms way above his government allotment. Oh no! Run for your lives! Obama’s going to slaughter his Enemies List! With sternly-worded REPORTS!
What noobs. Before the Republican trendspotters had even laid their eyes on Scott Brown’s happy trail, Christie’s Pretty Woman habits were well documented, along with several other peccadilloes: circumstantial evidence that he conjured subpoenas to influence the 2006 U.S. Senate race; the nondisclosure of his financial relationship with an assistant U.S. Attorney who was delaying FOIA requests on… wait for it… his government travel expenses; turning the wrong way down a one-way street and sending a motorcyclist to the hospital — and not getting ticketed after he identified himself as the U.S. Attorney.
Look, what I’m saying is that no one is going to dig up any new dirt on Chris Christie. That opposition research file was done and done in 2009. Know why? Because the guy Jon Corzine hired to do his dirty work was a Pulitizer Prize-winning buyout fatality of the Star-Ledger, whose last beat just happened to be… ding! ding! ding! Chris Christie’s U.S. Attorney’s office in Newark!
Corzine’s guy did an ace job at tearing down Christie, and they probably would’ve won had their candidate been any other Democrat. But Corzine was just so unpopular, Jersey could’ve been bluer than a hypothermic choking victim and he still would’ve lost.
The point is that Christie’s closet has been cleared out. If anything damaging were to arise, it’s going to be related to his conduct as governor. Or his personality.
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It’s the personality that’s turned him into a contender. See, the day Chris Christie was taking the oath of office, all of America’s Republican energy was in Massachusetts, rallying around another rich guy who went around in a barn jacket saying, “I drive a truck.” Scott Brown would have the Kevin James bit down, too, were it not for his Cosmo bod. And he was all set to bury Obamacare with Kennedy until, well, the GOP collectively realized he is kind of a flake. And did you hear about this other guy from New Jersey who yells at people?
It was about four months into his term when Christie scolded a columnist at a press conference for asking about his “confrontational tone.” And in doing so, he basically gave the gubernatorial equivalent of, Wha-wait, I’m the asshole? No, buddy, YOU’RE the asshole! (This is how we usually settle our disputes in Jersey.)
But then video of the encounter went viral, and then so did a bunch of other videos of him telling middle-aged women teachers that they’re garbage and, several Neil Cavuto appearances later, voila! Cult of personality complete. A Kevin James who moonlights as an insult comic.
In ways, the videos of Christie letting his Jersey run loose is a lot like the Jersey Shore. We grew up with people like Pauly D and Snooki. We went to high school with them when they were just beginning to discover the full extent of their guidocity. Sometimes they were cool and other times they were complete dicks. But there was nothing really exceptional about them. It was just how they were. And then all of a sudden, somebody puts some cameras on them and says to America, ‘Hey get a load of this,’ and blamo: they’re superstars.
Because believe it or not, Christie was getting short with people way before he was a viral video sensation. It sometimes made the news during the campaign, yet it was less celebrated. In fact, it was a liability, because his impatience was not taken as a sign of endearment. He was just another loudmouth pushy crank in a state full of loudmouth pushy cranks. A lot of us still see him that way — locally, at least. So he’d get testy with someone, and our mothers would roll their eyes, lean back in their chairs and exhale audibly as if to say, Here we go again.
The thing is, all of a sudden you want this, America. We’re still ashamed when our cousin Nicole heads for the Shore looking like a skank. (Sorry, Nicole.) Only now she might get a tanning salon endorsement out of it. And those temper tantrums we sigh at? They could be the foundations of the 45th American Presidency.
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Christie clearly eats this attention up, and it’s all going straight to his head. And laugh all you want at the fat jokes, but he’s working with a personal trainer and has lost some serious pounds (the first 30 of which were negated by the 30 pounds he gained during the gubernatorial transition).
Besides the weight loss, he’s offering up other tell-tale signs that he’s considering a national run. What with his saying, ‘Thanks but no thanks to that tunnel to nowhere Manhattan.’ Or like last week, when he essentially said he’s not sure if he believes in pollution. I mean, why else does one go to Iowa and inflate his poll numbers by a good ten points?
That’s right: the AP’s Mike Glover reported that Christie was telling those people of the corn that he was elected with less than 50 percent of the vote and after yelling at people through a conservative megaphone, his approval rating was nearly 60 percent. Except that it wasn’t. Scott Rasmussen, perhaps the most biased and inaccurate pollster of 2010, found him at 57 percent on August 31, but every other poll has had his approval rating hovering in the mid-40s to low 50s. It’s like the guy who makes out with a girl and then tells everybody at school that they went all the way. It wasn’t even the latest poll before his trip: a Monmouth U/Gannett poll (which is a poll we actually pay attention to) had him at 45 percent two weeks before his Iowa stop.
I write about this because no one else has. After I read that AP story, I asked a friend of mine who works in Jersey Democratic politics if maybe I was imagining things (the questions we ask ourselves after days on end with minimal face-to-face human interaction). No, he said, he had noticed it. It had even happened before and he brought it to the attention of a reporter — one who shares that Pulitzer with Corzine’s opposition research guy. According to my friend, the reporter kind of brushed it off, saying that Christie didn’t deserve the presidential-level dodging-bullets-in-Bosnia scrutiny yet.
(Come to think of it, those guys won that Pulitzer for writing about how Jim McGreevey is gay after he came out of the closet.)
What I’m saying is that Christie has gotten through the door, and he’s sitting pretty. He’s a Republican rock star, his wife is racking up the bucks on Wall Street and he’s got the media totally bowed to him. No more ex-reporter oppo-research guys rifling through his files making him look bad — now they’re all frightened of getting stomped in a viral video.
Even the one who sits in the Russert chair — which is apparently no longer the toughest interview on TV — is getting rolled. David Gregory could barely stand up for himself when Christie accused him of “advocating” for tax increases. (Yes, Christie is so brazen that he can even assign tax-increasing motives to the moderator of Meet The Press.) Gregory tried to object but the Governor kept on telling him how to ask questions and claimed victory by saying, “Then we agree” two times in succession, which in Jersey translates to Oh, I’m sorry — sorry you’re too friggin’ STUPID to realize I’m right.
Here is a guy with such a short record in elected office, and yet Gregory could produce no skeptical questions, let alone Meet-style adversarial ones. Not like Christie didn’t leave himself wide open. He repeatedly invoked “shared sacrifice” and how when it was time to make cuts, “everyone came to the table and everybody had to contribute” — everyone except the millionaire set. They got tax cuts. (Because families like the Christies aren’t doing well enough to share in some sacrifice?) And then he brags that he offset it with spending cuts.
That is a LAUGH RIOT for anyone with a grasp of Christie’s record. OK, so to do away with millionaires’ sacrifice, Christie cut prescription drug funding for senior citizens. But then the socialist cabal in Washington passed Obamacare and sent federal aid to the state that allowed him to restore the seniors’ prescription program. And Christie took credit for it! So yeah, he offset the tax cut: with federal deficit spending. It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul only to steal some guy named Barry’s wallet to pay Peter back. The same old shell game New Jersey governors have been playing for years.
And seriously, come on, David Gregory, or any thinking person for that matter. By Christie’s own admission, New Jersey is “broke” and everything’s on the table, yet he’s giving tax cuts to millionaires? And if you say, Well, it’s to stimulate the economy, then isn’t that the same Keynesian deficit approach that Obama’s employing, only it’s from the supply side? Doesn’t make it any less of a deficit. If you want to see some reining in of government in action, check out Britain, where they’re cutting spending and raising taxes. Yeah, they’ve got riots right now, but that’s what happens when conservative government attempts to conserve fiscal order and doesn’t just rotate the pie tray toward its ever-fattening 1 percent. Until then, Christie is just Christine Whitman 1995 with balls.
(And if you’re an out-of-state Republican who doesn’t get that reference, then maybe learn a thing or two about Jersey before you take any time away from painting tin cans or whatever it is that you do to draft our governor as the next president. And don’t go telling me that you read the National Review cover story because all that guy did was stenograph Christie talking points and write about a Mercedes in the faculty parking lot of his old high school. It’s not my fault that he never stopped to consider that maybe it was leased or, you know, that maybe this teacher’s spouse was an employee of the high-yield corporate bond department of Cantor Fitzgerald?)
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No, Chris Christie does not run for president in 2012, lest people start looking at how his well-regarded rhetoric matches up with his record. Christie celebrates himself as one who stands up to opponents, who is not afraid to take the tough questions, and yet on the other hand, he may be wise enough to know that he shouldn’t invite them either. He’s like Kimbo Slice, undisputed champion of the viral video street fight, mopping the floor with reporter chumps. Then he steps into the eight-sided cage with the pros, and all of a sudden, we find out he’s had a glass jaw all along.
Because Christie’s found the magical middle: in the big time, but without the tough questions. And face it: Will you seek the White House in 2012? is not a tough question. It’s nothing compared to what you’re asked once you’re a candidate, the level of scrutiny to which every word and sentence is subjected.
And then there’s the argument he’d have to win with the American people. The question he asks them. It’s the most important question of them all, and it’s asked every time someone has challenged an incumbent president since Jimmy Carter: Are you better off than you were four years ago?
Well, for Chris Christie, living large in the figurative (sometimes literal) penthouse of American politics, the answer to that question would have to be “yes.”
And for a potential presidential challenger, that’s the wrong answer.
John R. Bohrer is so Jersey, he thought ‘forward’ was spelled ‘foward’ until he was 18 and a half years old. True story.