As he jumps into the crammed boxcar of GOP presidential hopefuls, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s handlers have evidently come up with strategy that is a flat-out head scratcher. The most un-saleable element of the Christie package, his ever-present boorishness, is somehow being advanced as an asset in which the governor takes much pride and which voters should appreciate. Talk about a leap of faith! The smart betting, though, says this is a mission impossible. Or, in the parlance of the moment, good luck with that.
In making the case that this fondness of Christie’s for acidly putting down folks who come into his path is a trait learned from his mother, the Christie team does a fancy glide around what has been demonstrably shown to be downright insulting behavior from the governor. His mother, they claim, was a straight talking, tell-it-like-it-is type. Which in no way conveys the now famous Christie style in full measure. Being blunt is not to be confused with being uncouth, which is what Christie has so often displayed in public – a personality feature which, during an earlier time of luxuriating in pretty neat approval numbers and sky-high presidential expectations, the Christie machine considered altogether cool to flaunt before an enamored citizenry. Away from that “reality show” sensibility, perhaps the only likely explanation for such insufferable conduct being seen as a plus lies in Christie’s having gotten too caught up in his own hype.
We have steadfastly maintained here that, Bridgegate aside, Christie’s chances of convincing an audience, beyond his home state, that he should be given a pass on those well publicized flashes of ill-tempered carrying-on were slim to none. What surely amplified the outrage from any independent observer of these patented Christie harangues was that they so often took place at the governor’s celebrated town hall meetings and were directed at garden variety members of the electorate, not political opponents or public officials who ignited the governor’s wrath. The delight Christie seemed to take in beating up on average Joes was always, we felt, a presidential deal breaker. Politically enigmatic it might be, but this country is not yet at a place where someone given to outwardly mean-spirited behavior, more so toward the most defenseless of its citizens, is rewarded with the presidency.
Unfortunately for Christie, whether or not there was need for enhancement of the forces of disqualification arrayed against him, the pile-on came in spades. Even if it turns out to be accurate that the governor was clueless as to the planning and execution of the Washington Bridge scandal, no amount of spin by him or his minions could leave him unscathed in its wake. Hiring incompetents or underlings inclined to skullduggery is hardly a solid recommendation for national office. Neither is being indifferent or oblivious to a massive transportation nightmare, well publicized to boot, that endures for days.
Just when more bad news was the last thing he needed, Christie saw the lid blown off his stewardship problems in New Jersey, exposing deep-seated fiscal shortcomings, as reaffirmed by the state’s steady bond rating decline. The state may not be the equal of the basket-case fiscal depths to which Kansas has sunk under the leadership of Republican governor Sam Brownback, but there’s no sugar-coating the New Jersey situation. The battle has been joined with state workers over a protracted pension dispute. Teachers, specially targeted by Christie since early in his tenure as deserving of his ire, apparently continue to have bête noir status, where the governor is concerned – a strange designation, given the hallowed space normally assigned to those engaged in the education of youngsters. And Christie’s approval rating by Jerseyites has accordingly plummeted, sitting these days in the 30 percent range, a far cry from his much ballyhooed pre-Bridgegate numbers.
Christie had his own curious take the other day on some unflattering poll numbers indicating that not even New Jersey residents were now too enthused about his running for president. That, Christie contended, was because they wanted him to continue being their governor. Many a commentator didn’t quite see those discouraging survey results the way Christie did. In the cluttered race among Republicans to become the 2016 nominee, Christie, who was once frequently touted as the party’s best hope against presumptive Democratic standard bearer Hillary Clinton, now registers practically among the “also rans” in the GOP stampede.
The bottom line on this Christie nosedive, we believe, is that the chickens have simply come home to roost. If Christie’s getting into the presidential stakes is about demonstrating that being mean and insulting should be no prohibition against political advancement, maybe the Christie odyssey will do much to retire that off-color brand.