I don't get what Chris Christie is doing. I guess it's not surprising that he'd try to cook up a report that casts his scandals in the best possible light, because pols in trouble regularly try to get a narrative into the mix that's an alternative to what the press and political opponents are cooking up -- but by doing what amounts to a book tour for the report (a news conference with the Trenton press corps, a softball interview with Megyn Kelly on Fox News, and, as Dave Weigel notes, another interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer), he just comes off as desperate. We know his version is distorted. Why is he straining so hard to get us to believe it?
And he's trying to come off as a pleading puppy dog. Check out the ABC clip at the end of this post. Yeah, I know: Christie fans think he's a nice, reasonable guy who gets angry only when someone crosses him. Well, someone's crossing him. It doesn't matter what the truth is -- his fans want him to get angry at people who say he's a bad guy. That emotion would make them believe he's not guilty, regardless of what the facts say.
I think this is true even of his moderate fans -- the ones who voted for Obama and Booker as well as Christie. They like a bit of rough, too. Some of them may regard themselves as liberals, but they accepted his argument that unionized teachers with pensions are history's greatest monsters. They got a thrill from his attacks on those teachers, too.
The Christie narrative is that, when Sandy hit, we saw the aspect of him that made him the ideal GOP candidate: we saw the bipartisan softie under all the bluster. But think of what would have happened if Sandy had taken a different course and done little or no damage to Jersey: the last impression of the governor in the 2012 campaign would have been the nasty anti-Obama speech he delivered just a few days before the storm, the one in which he described the president as "blindly walking around the White House looking for a clue." And you know what? He still would have won reelection a year later in a landslide. Because he had plenty of crossover support prior to that. He'd already won once in a blue state. He didn't need to seem like a nice guy.
A comeback successful enough to put him back in the presidential race is a longshot, but if he wants to try, he should just shut up about his scandals and attack someone -- attack Obama on health care, attack Hillary on Benghazi, whatever. That's what his former right-wing fans want. That's even what his swing-voter fans want. Failing that, kick a teacher again.
And no, Dave Weigel, this doesn't count:
At the [Trenton] press conference, Christie reawakened the angry muse that had endeared him to national Republicans in the first place. When a national politics reporter asked him how the scandal affected his 2016 chances (sigh): "Any of you that try to game out the politics of this, that's a fool's errand."That's not anger. That's not what made him famous. This is what made him famous:
When a reporter asked about the friendliness of the firm that did the investigation: "No matter who I chose to do this, questions would be raised by some reporters."
When a New Jersey columnist started in: "It's your assumption, as you often do (sic). It's your assumption. You're a columnist."
On the man at the center of the controversy, who was not interviewed in the internal report: "I honestly think that having David Wildstein on the Port Authority was a mistake. Let's just leave it at that."
Short version: Be a real dick, governor. That's your only hope right now. Not this:
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