Commentary

Is Chris Christie pathetic, shrewd, or just pathetically shrewd? | Dick Polman

May 17, 2021 6:30 am

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the White House in 2012 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza/WikiMedia Commons.) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

The Republican party has devolved into a motley mix of goose stepping fanatics such as U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and sniveling cowards like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. But worst of all are the bloviating opportunists who seek advantage by simply blowing with the wind.

Dick Polman Cagle Syndicate photo

Which brings us to Chris Christie.

I’ve yet to decide whether the ex-New Jersey governor who left office with a 13 percent approval rating is pathetic or shrewd or some combination thereof. But he’s so desperate for a piece of the action, so hungry for relevance, that he thinks he can have a bakery of cakes and eat them too.

Christie keeps showing up on ABC News’ Sunday show to audition for the 2024 Republican nomination, but because he’s not quite sure whether the party is permanently or temporarily in thrall to the MAGA sociopath, he keeps trying to have it both ways. He’s so anxious to be on center stage that he’ll say whatever it takes, no matter how transparent his naked calculations may appear.

His latest shtick is that Liz Cheney basically deserved to be dumped from the House GOP leadership team because she keeps saying something that her colleagues don’t want to hear – namely, that President Biden legitimately won the 2020 election. He said Sunday that Cheney continues “to press this issue publicly in a way that (is) antagonizing the people who (are) against her, and I think you don’t have an entitlement to be in leadership.”

Actually, the “issue” is that Cheney is simply telling the truth. Christie’s apparent position – for the moment, anyway – is that Cheney is not “entitled” to be in leadership if she insists on telling the truth to people who prefer to wallow in lies. In other words, Christie wants the MAGA liars to believe that he’s sympathetic to their side.

He also declared that Cheney, by pressing this “issue” so publicly, is “sending a clear signal” that “she’s not comfortable in leadership anymore, and she doesn’t want to be in it.” Christie apparently can’t fathom that Cheney may be simply motivated to tell the truth.

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Last January, shortly after the failed Capitol coup, Christie appeared to share her motivation. He surfaced on TV in high dudgeon about Trump: “The president caused this protest to occur…What we had was an incitement to riot at the United States Capitol, we had people killed, and to me there’s not a whole lot of question there” about who’s responsible. “If inciting insurrection isn’t impeachable, I don’t know what is.”

Fast forward to early May. Most Republicans have donned the Trump armband and signed on to the Big Lie. And Christie has re-calibrated accordingly. A few weeks ago he fled to Sean Hannity and declared that Trump was a fantastic president. Granted, “there were some things that happened specifically at the end of the presidency that I think had some things that clouded his accomplishments,” but “overall I give the president an A.”

How can Christie gift Trump an A-grade if he also believes that the guy deserved to be impeached for assaulting our democracy and inciting a violent insurrection? How can Christie simply dismiss Trump’s neo-fascist acts as merely “some things that happened” in the final days?

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The answer is easy. He’s trying to run for president again and he’ll say whatever it takes to suck up to the base.

His current position, as best I understand it, is that what Trump incited on Jan. 6 was some kind of aberration, not a logical extension of who Trump was and has always been.

On the one hand, Christie has told The New Yorker that Trump on Jan. 6 “breached something that I think none of us should have to put up with.”

On the other hand, he told the magazine that “what happened (on Jan. 6) didn’t happen two years ago or three years ago,” and was therefore some kind of isolated incident. That sorta jibes with what Christie said about Trump in his 2019 memoir – where he wrote that “my friend Donald” has “many of the qualities that have defined America’s leaders.”

Is your head spinning yet? Yup. Is it worth parsing Christie any further? Nope. Because his game is nakedly obvious.

As Michael Korda, the English writer and publisher, wisely observed many years ago, “An ounce of hypocrisy is worth a pound of ambition.”

Opinion contributor Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at DickPolman.net. His work appears on Mondays on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page. Readers may email him at [email protected]

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