February 04, 2016
No you can’t, I’m a god! I’m a
god! You can’t kill me!
- Caligula (John Hurt), I, Claudius
Chris Christie to a deranged, megalomaniacal Roman emperor isn’t entirely fair.
But Caligula’s fictional dying screech comes to mind when one ponders the New
Jersey governor’s spectacular tumble from the pinnacle of Republican/right
Governor: Chris Christie’s Bridge to Redemption
(Threshold Editions; 452 pages; $28.00) WNYC reporter Matt Katz chronicles, in
sometimes interminable detail, a man who was born to be a pol. Christopher
James Christie entered the world as the first child of a middle-class,
German-Irish-Italian family. The household was raucous -- mom and dad argued, a
lot. Smart, well-behaved, and a natural leader, the kid looked to have a bright
second grade, Christie told a classmate’s mother, “some day I’m going to be
president.” (His uncle observed: “Chris wanted to be a politician when he was a
baby.”) In junior high, he volunteered for the liberal GOPer Tom Kean, Sr. Rejected by
Georgetown, he earned a political-science degree from the University of
Delaware. A law degree from Seton Hall University completed his training for
the world of professional politics.
early runs for office yielded dismal results. He sought love from voters at the
county and state level, failing in three of four attempts. Defamation suits
were filed by, and against him. (He As Katz notes, “four elections in four
years … triggered four court cases.”)
much hope of a career in elective office, it was time to become a real lawyer.
Christie joined a small firm, Dughi
& Hewit, “defending doctors in malpractice cases and handling
investment and securities,” with his wife and brother, “both Wall Street
traders,” referring clients. Staying active in Republican politics, he joined a
junket of Jersey boys in a pilgrimage to visit Texas’s presidential-wannabe
governor in January 1999. Christie raised big bucks for George W. Bush, and earned
a nickname (“Big Boy”), the ultimate honor for Dubya insiders.
reward came in the fall of 2001, when the White House named him U.S. Attorney
for New Jersey. He had “never worked in criminal law or in a federal
courtroom,” and had “never cross-examined a witness or worked as an assistant
prosecutor.” No matter. The gig supplied ample media attention, through the
prosecution of the Garden State’s rampant political corruption and indictments,
however dubious, in the “War on Terror.”
the economy was in freefall, and New Jersey’s chief executive was unpopular. In
a deeply blue state, Christie
gambled on the governorship, and grabbed 47 percent of the vote, besting
incumbent John Corzine by six points. In short order, the tubby tough-talker
garnered national attention. He exposed, and worked to correct, the state’s
absurd overcompensation for government employees. He withdrew his state from
the junk-science-fueled Regional
Greenhouse Gas Initiative. And he berated reporters, nearly every chance he
entertainment complex swooned. (Even MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Mika
Brzezinski were admirers.) Before he secured a second term, the Republican Party’s
millionaires and billionaires began an unsuccessful campaign to get
Christie to run for the presidency. Top-tier status in the fight for the GOP’s
2016 nomination was a certainty.
everything fell apart. His post-Hurricane Sandy
embrace of and praise for Barack Obama -- just before the 2012 election! --
enraged the GOP faithful. A year later, Bridgegate
broke. The scandal involved a gubernatorial staffer and appointees punishing a
Democratic mayor for not endorsing Christie’s reelection. The officials, who
were eventually indicted by the feds, arranged several days of horrific traffic
at the George
Washington Bridge -- a dirty trick that put lives at risk. While no
evidence has surfaced that the governor directed the skullduggery, Bridgegate
revealed the narcissism and pettiness of an administration that put politics
Christie announced his run for the presidency last summer. Republicans yawned.
An Obama-lover? Tainted by scandal? A flip-flopper on Common Core, guns and abortion? The adulation the governor
once enjoyed, back when Barack Obama ruled national politics and right-wingers
needed a hero, was gone.
despise their governor more than they ever scorned the guy he replaced. The
economic comeback Christie promised has been a no-show. Jobs are scarce, ratings
agencies regularly downgrade the state’s debt, and the pension system for
government employees remains “the most underfunded of any in the United
States.” He won’t be the next president, and term-limited,
Christie will be out of a job in two years.
gods, it appears, can be killed.
D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.
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