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Christie’s mean-spirited parting shot

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I remember MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow concluding another of her typically well-crafted intros with: “And that’s why this man will never be president of the United States.” None other than New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was “this man” to whom Maddow referred. She was devoting much of her show that evening to the bombshell developments a Christie news conference had revealed that day, concerning Bridgegate, as the spitefully rigged traffic tie-up on the George Washington Bridge came to be called. The final hammer is yet to fall on that act of devil-may-care political mischief, with Christie having done a Pontius Pilate “clean hands” routine ever since stuff began hitting the fan a while back.

But even pre-dating the Bridgegate fallout, which Maddow and others saw as Christie’s bridge too far in his presidential quest, we had insisted in this space that the governor had already written himself out of presidential history, just being Christie. Those very videos of Christie doing his one-man show in town halls across New Jersey, which his marketing machine jubilantly touted as previewing a White House natural, had actually exposed, we noted, a boorish ruffian whose visions of an obstacle-free path to presidential glory would be short-circuited. To us it was clear that rudely spewing “Shut up and sit down” or “That’s none of your business” at garden variety constituents was a deal breaker beyond fixing.

So here was Christie last week, having been earlier administered a reality-check potion by GOP primary voters, sidling up to the buffoon who would lead the clawing contenders with a “This is my guy” back slap. This, after having earlier dismissed Trump as belonging in a Barnum & Bailey environment, hardly in a presidential politics discussion.

Politicians, especially slick ones among whom Christie likely includes himself, give the impression sometimes that wishing away reality and taking the public along on the fantasy ride, is eminently doable. I mean, who constitutes the audience Christie thinks he’s playing to when he pulls a stunt like this? Is it just for the benefit of the yahoos who have constantly shown Trump being supported by one-third of GOP voters? What his post-Trump endorsement polling numbers show in New Jersey should be interesting. He had already slipped sharply, approval-wise, from the “golden boy” days of his first gubernatorial term to a none too happy electorate, starting relatively early in his current term. The Bridgegate mess of course not helping, and neither did his leading the state into a rough place economically, notably with multiple downgrades of New Jersey’s bond rating.

This late-hour realization by Christie that Trump is America’s best presidential hope is such a shameless, unrefined attempt at political guile, it doesn’t become even someone as steeped as Christie evidently is in rough-and-tumble political infighting. Let’s face it, there’s quite a gulf between appearing to do the right non-partisan thing by joining President Obama in touring storm-devastated areas of New Jersey and doing an about-face embrace of a guy the GOP high command sees as the party’s biggest embarrassment as a presidential contender in a long time.

Is it that Christie, during his salad days as a front-running GOP prospect for higher office, became so infatuated with the idea of his inevitable elevation to the national stage, that he considers this latest pandering a small price to pay for keeping those national-office dreams alive? Is it a case of being caught up and being too much a believer in his own hype? It’s not that he didn’t reportedly get one warning sign that should have given him pause. The scuttlebutt was that Christie was on Mitt Romney’s running mate short list in 2012, but failed the Romney camp’s vetting.

Or it could simply be a mean-spirited Christie giving the finger to both New Jersey and the nation for so ignominiously letting the air out of his balloon. For New Jersey, it was the residents bringing the governor painfully back to earth from approval ratings that registered in the high 70s right after he won re-election in 2012. Those numbers have plummeted to the 30 percent range in recent surveys. His presidential aspirations never gained serious traction, precipitating his exit from the nomination hunt after an unimpressive finish in New Hampshire’s primary. There’s been shown to be enough bully in the man for him to have responded angrily to the “dis” he suffered on both levels. At the same time, the reaction from one apparently displeased Christie funder to his Trump endorsement, that it was pure political opportunism, can’t be discounted as being on the mark. Either which way, in the realm of political uprightness, the Christie stock has taken a tumble.

Updated 3:05 am, July 10, 2018
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