When Chris Christie bonded with President Obama after Hurricane Sandy, Rupert Murdoch admonished him to restate his loyalty to Mitt Romney. Now Daniel Henninger of Murdoch's Wall Street Journal has written an op-ed attacking Christie for his complaints that House Republicans have been holding up Sandy aid.
The New Republic's Alec MacGillis thinks Christie is alienating his base -- not just Murdoch & Co., but the New York area's financial bigwigs, with whom Christie has had a whirlwind bromance:
What is notable about the sharp words from the likes of Murdoch and Henninger, though, is that they were, until very recently, elements of his strongest base of support: the nexus of the Wall Street financier/New York conservative intellectual elite who loved Christie for his combination of tough-minded anti-union, budget-cutting rhetoric and urbane social moderation. Christie gave a big speech at the Manhattan Institute, the think tank for New York conservatives. His moves to cut union benefits in New Jersey won rave reviews in Murdoch's Journal. His presidential prospects were touted loudest of all by Paul Singer, the billionaire hedge-fund manager who is a major backer of the Manhattan Institute, and Ken Langone, the billionaire Home Depot founder. The affection for Christie among conservative-leaning New York financiers was so strong that many of them were deeply disappointed by his decision not to run for president and had trouble ginning up similar enthusiasm for their fellow financier Mitt Romney....Do you really think the fat cats are as appalled as Murdoch and the right-wing think tanks by the fact that Christie, the once and future right-wing scourge, has now opportunistically recognized the value of government spending?
But this same Christie let them down by declining to run for president, and now he's really let them down by cozying up to Obama and then making a very strong, very high-profile articulation for why functioning government matters and why Ayn Rand isn't much good in a hurricane.
I don't. Since Sandy, Christie has been going to Washington with his hand out. That's what fat cats do all the time -- even as they bankroll candidates who say government is too big. If Christie's being a hypocrite, he's being the same kind of hypocrite as his (non-Murdoch) rich friends: Takers are horrible -- present company excepted. I don't believe this will cause Christie's money pipeline to dry up.
Ultimately, he probably could become president on the basis of this ideological shape-shifting: the money folks get it, and the public seems to like it.
His biggest problem is Murdoch. Murdoch doesn't have the sense to shut the hell up and cheer on the one Republican in elected office anywhere in America who's genuinely popular nationwide. Murdoch's playing the ideological purity card, and the lemmings in his audience will follow, which means that Christie can't possibly survive the 2016 Republican primaries -- even though he could probably have the general public on his side, as well as lots and lots of fat cat money.
Or maybe 2016 will be a repeat of 2012, with Murdoch goading extremist candidates on (Allen West? Rand Paul? Ted Cruz?) and demanding purity of the rest. And maybe Christie will survive that by tacking even further to the right than he has in his ugliest days as governor. Yeah, that ought to work about as well for him as it did for Mitt Romney.