Until now, Chris Christie has had the benefit of a New Jersey political press that – with a few clear exceptions – responded to his forceful personality by writing about him mainly as a political celebrity. As phenomenon. Reporting on his latest brash moment is a lot cheaper for struggling news organizations than asking hard questions or doing investigative work. And if Jersey voters were dazzled by his cocksure attitude – buffeted by propagandistic public appearances, Stronger than the Storm ads and YouTube moments produced at taxpayer expense – the state press is at least partially responsible for the legend he made himself here.
The governor has a big personality and serious communications chops. He’s sold his governorship as his personality – aping the governor you wanna have a beer with thing like he studied at George Bush’s knee. But like Bush, there is likely to be a tipping point with Christie, once America gets a hard look at him with grown-ass political reporters. That’s beginning to happen now, and it’s fun to watch what gets unearthed.
Republicans get to road-test him first, as the GOP continues its internal battle to shed its Tea Party image (as they try to hang on to far-right money), long since having shed its soul. So, it’s interesting that today, Real Clear Politics pulled the flier above from the Christie archives (at Poligu.com) from Christie’s Jurassic Period, back to another time when Republicans were searching for their identity on local turf. In his losing bid (with Rick Merkt) to challenge GOP incumbents Anthony Bucco and Michael Patrick Carroll, he trumpeted his support of an assault weapons ban, picturing himself with a passel of kids as if to say This is what we have at stake and why we we’re the guys thinking sensibly about guns.
And while Christie has positioned himself as a “moderate” Republican much of his political life, he’s more than that a strategic one. His Friday-night news-dump veto of sensible gun legislation – including the Barrett .50 caliber long-range rifle assault weapon – is testimony to how much Christie is willing to sell of himself to impress the big wallets in his party.
After all, the sensible gun legislation Christie vetoed in August – after first supporting it – came in the wake of the brutal schoolhouse deaths of 20 children (and 6 educators trying to protect them) in Newtown, CT.
That 1995 flier, surrounded by kids, is a reminder of how easily Christie will use kids to paint himself as caring, and how easily he’ll throw their safety aside when it suits his ambitions. Something for the rest of us to think about, as the Republicans cheer him for it.