Governor Christie’s endorsement of Donald Trump today in Texas. Their words, not mine.I’m not sure why, Save Jerseyans, but some members of the national conservative social media universe is SHOCKED by
“You can understand my shock then when a man who claimed to be serious about public service, who ran on concrete policies and a serious national security platform and who seemed genuinely concerned about an unqualified person becoming president would embrace a know-nothing buffoon like Donald Trump,” wrote WashPo’s Jennifer Rubin not long after the presser.
Goodness gracious. They still don’t understand the man!
Not like those of us who know him well.
And they probably never, ever will.
Understand this: Chris Christie is a high-functioning political animal in the truest sense of the label. One of the best since Bill Clinton. Nixonian in many ways, not all of them bad by any means.
Covering him over the past eight years has been a wild, crazy ride. A privilege and fantastic learning experience but also one fraught with emotional highs and lows. He’s extremely engaging, bright and talented, capable of great acts of compassion and forward-thinking innovation, but also disposed to shocking (there’s that word again) displays of ruthless calculation to advance a political goal.
Example numero uno? The Republican Governor’s controversial alliance with New Jersey Democrat bosses ahead of his 2013 reelection campaign and the sanctioned political hit on Tom Kean, Jr., for starters, aren’t well known outside of Garden State political circles; frankly, the Guv didn’t get close enough in 2016 for anyone to bring this stuff up. Others dismiss net legislative losses and related events as inside baseball. Better known to outsiders is his recent recanted verbal beat-down of a Republican mayor and long-time supporter for talking about disaster-like conditions after this winter’s blizzard, a storm for which the Governor quickly pulled a 180 and sought disaster funds shortly after suspending his presidential campaign.
I’ve been watching him every single day for eight years. Sometimes he over-calculates (like when the Dem legislative majority who ran WITH him in 2013 turned around and investigated him for Bridgegate). Sometimes he gets carried away (the Obama “hug” or the Wildwood mayor fiasco referenced above).
Sometimes he gambles and it pays off big.
As I discussed in my recent campaign suspension postmortem, don’t forget that we’re talking about a guy with plenty of positive attributes including an incredible survival instinct. He didn’t sit at home and pout after losing New Hampshire. He woke up the next day and immediately began calculating his next move. He’d been working on Plan B for months – or years – before the campaign ended. Every contingency was measured on the table even before, it seems, his own county chairs were clued in.
I’m not exaggerating or embellishing. When he’s thinking clearly, he can see far ahead. Far enough ahead to set aside his natural impulse to hold a grudge (Trump did steal his playbook, after all) to endorse a guy who accused him of lying about his role in Bridgegate:
It wasn’t an isolated hyper-personal smack down, and Chris Christie wasn’t exactly as impressed with Trump’s resume as he was today in Texas:
How could he bring himself to back Trump now? After all that? And going on Fox News to say Trump didn’t have the temperament to be president?
Well, Christie can count. He’s a calculating gambler who doesn’t take his eye off of the chips. Didn’t you read anything I just wrote?
He’s a natural fit for a casino tycoon’s surrogate.
Chris Christie knows Donald Trump is almost the presumptive nominee. He respects the Donald because they have a similar worldview (self-evident?). More than anything, Christie doesn’t want to ‘bet against the house.’ That’s now how he play poker. He wants in on it all because he’s not the kind of guy that would be happy cashing in at a New York law firm. He wants the bully pulpit and the black suburban. Maybe that’s Attorney General? Far more power and independence in that role (see Bobby Kennedy) than the Vice Presidency. Christie also wins a full year of terrified speculation from his enemies of possible retaliation if he makes it to the Justice Department…
Actually, I would be even less surprised to see him fall into the RNC Chairmanship. Trump will cite Christie’s RGA successes as justification for the role; Christie will have another opportunity to fine tune the national network that didn’t pay off in 2016 but could still play a role in future efforts.
Side deals or promises of one aside, Governor Christie now gets to be the first “establishment” player surrendering his sword to the Trump Train. That’s worth a story, and relevancy what it’s all about.
My goal in this particular post isn’t to change your opinion of the man.
I only wanted to provide you with some valuable context: if you thought Chris Christie was boxed-in by a strong ideological orientation, underestimated his militant pragmatism, or if you were tempted to squeeze him into a “lane” (establishment, anti-establishment, RINO, whatever), you might have been surprised by today’s big news.
You don’t know him like we do.