Tuesday, July 04, 2017


You may have concluded that Chris Christie, who was already America's most unpopular governor, is surely going to driven from public life after his most recent act of arrogance -- luxuriating on a state-run beach after allowing beaches and parks to be closed to the public for most of the Fourth of July weekend. But a Washington Post article by the usually reliable Robert Costa reminds us that the press is always willing to put in a kind word for Christie, and that Republicans relitigate the reputations of their own until the bitter end.

Start with Costa's headline:
Chris Christie flew close to the sun. Now, he sits under it, defiantly.
There it is -- the word "defiantly." You may think that Christie has humiliated himself with this beach appearance, but this suggests that he's standing tall and daring haters to hate.

Yes, Costa tells us that Christie's "prominent profile has all but drifted away following years of defeats and humiliations" -- but the undercurrent of admiration for Christie's bullheadedness is unmistakable:
Sporting floppy sandals and a baseball cap, Christie unapologetically lounged in the sun with his family at a state-owned beach house amid a statewide government shutdown that closed such beaches to the public. The scene — captured in airplane photographs snapped by the state’s largest newspaper, the Newark Star-Ledger — again revealed the indifferent defiance that has both lifted and hobbled Christie’s political career.

... the pictures of him among the dunes at Island Beach State Park were a reflection of who he has always been: a flawed brawler who relishes the limelight and who deliberately ignores decorum.
(Emphasis added, here and throughout.)

Even a list of Christie's most offensive acts is introduced with a reference to his "swagger."
Similar stories of his swagger are legion. Christie used to take a 55-foot-long State Police helicopter to his son’s baseball games. He was asked to give the keynote address at the 2012 Republican National Convention but uttered only a few words about the party’s standard-bearer, Mitt Romney. Christie’s taste for luxury travel has been funded by foreign leaders and a casino magnate. And his time in the owner’s box cheering on his beloved Dallas Cowboys sparked a flurry of ethics questions.

Yet Christie has not been humbled by his waning support or inclined to keep a lower profile as he serves out his final months. Instead, he has been as dismissive and as unflinching as ever.
Many of the quotes are from GOP defenders:
Former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele said Christie was “Trump before Trump.”

“From the moment I met him in our first meeting in 2009, to Monday’s press conference, he has been someone who is in­cred­ibly comfortable in his skin. He does what he wants to do, and his success can be traced to that,” Steele said....
“With Christie, the tragedy is that he’s always had to work with a left-wing, Democratic legislature. Except for the first year, when he had shock value as a new governor, he hasn’t been able to get things through,” said Larry Kudlow, a CNBC commentator who advised Trump’s presidential campaign. “He has not been able to implement his promises and his hopes for growth.”
(Oh, boo-hoo. In the Morning Consult poll that lists Christie as America's least popular governor, the two most popular governors are blue-state Republicans, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Larry Hogan of Maryland.)

Costa does run through Christie's pratfalls and self-inflicted wounds. But he gives Michael Steele the last word:
Steele said that regardless of Christie’s stumbles, he retains stature in parts of the Republican Party as a survivor.

“I know people want to write his political epitaph, people want him to go away,” Steele said. “But this is someone who doesn’t go away. When they say ‘damaged goods,’ it doesn’t matter to him. A Senate run, a presidential run, an administration job — anything like that — could be what’s next.”
No, sorry -- Christie's not going to run for office anytime soon in a state where he's loathed.

But we can see from this story that important figures in the GOP still admire Christie, and that Christie is still the kind of Stern GOP Daddy the press really likes.

Once he's out of office, he'll still be a frequent Sunday talk show guest, assuming he doesn't sign an exclusive commentary deal with Fox (although these days obnoxious Republicans are just as likely to wind up on MSNBC). He'll get wealthy serving on corporate boards. He might get a gig on local sports talk station WFAN, where he's an occasional guest. In a few years, his appalling record as governor will be memory-holed by the press and his party. We'll be reading stories titled "Chris Christie: Survivor." We'll be expected to forget that we ever hated him.

I'm not sure his career can really be salvaged -- but if not, it won't be for lack of trying.

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