Friday, November 18, 2022


Puck's Tina Nguyen thinks Ron DeSantis is at risk of becoming the new Chris Christie:
... one factor weighing heavily on Team DeSantis’s mind is the not illegitimate fear of becoming the next Chris Christie: a popular figure who put off the decision to run in 2012, and lost momentum by the time he entered the arena in 2016. But the people I spoke to unanimously agreed that while DeSantis is certainly running hot right now, there is no telling whether he might be the next Christie....
When Christie decided to run in the 2016, his problem wasn't that he'd "lost momentum" -- it was that he no longer had any credibility as a Republican presidential candidate because of the Bridgegate scandal, which broke in 2013. He was no longer the loudmouthed, lib-owning governor of his first term -- he was a guy who was being owned by the libs (although it was The Wall Street Journal that made Bridgegate a national story). He'd become a laughingstock. Once he started taking punches more than he was throwing them, he was no longer a right-wing media darling.

I love Digby, but I think her response to Nguyen is off base:
I do like the comparison the Christie in this piece and it may apply even more directly to DeSantis than she says. The ridiculous Martha’s Vineyard gambit is coming closer and closer to DeSantis’ office and it could end up being his “Bridgegate.” I realize that most Americans care much less about dehumanizing immigrants to own the libs than they do about a traffic jam, but this is one of those scandals that can leave a mark if it goes the right way. And, of course, they are both nasty bullies which everyone sees as the main Trumpist model but neither Christie nor DeSantis have that weird, eccentric X-factor that Trump has to make it somehow more entertaining than the usual bully. They both just come off as the kind of guys who like to torture small animals.
The Martha's Vineyard flight will never be Bridgegate. It isn't just that "most Americans care much less about dehumanizing immigrants to own the libs than they do about a traffic jam" -- it's that much of America thinks those flights were an excellent idea, and nobody felt that way about Bridgegate. Remember the Trump-supporting woman who said of Trump during the government shutdown in 2019, "He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting"? That's the key point. To Republican voters, DeSantis was hurting the people he needed to be hurting. Christie wasn't.

Christie escaped from Bridgegate unpunished; I assume nothing will happen to DeSantis as a result of that flight. But on Bridgegate, even past Christie voters agreed with his harshest critics, because deliberately creating a traffic jam during rush hour is an unforgivable transgression. Violating the human rights of immigrant asylum-seekers? Not so much.

And I don't believe that Christie lacked a Trumpian "X-factor." I used to lurk at Fox Nation when it was a Free Republic-style message board, in the days before the brand name was used for the Fox News streaming service. Every bullying moment by Christie was cause for adulation and swooning there. Just now I watched a couple of clips from that era and I can see what the fuss was about: Christie was a bullying asshole, but he was really good at it. He got laughs, the kind of laughter you get when you're humiliating someone and everyone wants to be on the side of the humiliator, not the humiliated. Here are a couple of clips, from 2010 and 2012.

It doesn't surprise me that moneymen like Ken Langone and Carl Icahn wanted Christie to run against Barack Obama in 2012, as did Henry Kissinger and Nancy Reagan.

I think Christie was better at verbal bullying than DeSantis -- but while Christie's bullying was usually about mundane issues (pensions, teachers' unions), DeSantis's attacks touch on issues of sex (LGBT youth) and race (immigration, critical race theory). For Republicans, these are much more primal.

It's possible that DeSantis will lose some of his power when he's just orating in Iowa and not actively punishing people in Florida. It's also possible that he'll put a foot wrong in Florida, or a past scandal will emerge, or Donald Trump will find a more effective insult than "Ron DeSanctimonious." But for now, sure, he seems like someone who likes to torture his victims -- but the voters he needs in 2024 think that's good, as long as the victims are trans or brown.

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