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Chris Christie wants you to believe that, with him, what you see is what you get. He’s branded it “honest and refreshing,” like a nice crisp soft drink – a huge part of his appeal, and critical to his narrative. Chris is a regular guy like you and me (except that he is a millionaire); he likes baseball and Springsteen and has struggled with his weight just like the rest of us. He’d be fun to talk to at a party. He’s a Jersey guy.
Detractors, of course, remind you that Christie’s past is plenty checkered. From illegal wiretaps to Hemant Lakhani to his famous bike-car-one-way street incident, it’s not really up for debate whether or not the guy is sprakly clean. Like most folks, he isn’t. But historically, Christie has been successful in persuading others to simply move on from such indiscretions – he is smart, assertive, and vaguely constructive in the sense that the Christie mantra reads: “We have work to do.” It’s true, of course, and sort of inspiring. Yes, we do have work to do! Let’s fix this state! New Jersey is awesome! But this mantra is also a distraction technique. It’s a way of saying “Let’s not look at what I did, ok? I don’t want people knowing. Even though I might do it again.”
Moving people along like that was probably not so hard when Christie was a U.S. Attorney. Christie himself has remarked that he has found some difficulty in adjusting to the differences between his last job and governing. In some ways, Christie used to be much more autonomous. A shot-caller. The man. And you don’t tell the man “no” when he says that we all have to focus and move forward – even if he is actually minimizing something really important.
That is not, however, how the every aspect of government works. And though Christie now occupies a bigger chair, it’s way different than what he’s used to. And that chair belongs to more people than any other that he’s occupied. What’s a shot-caller to do?
With regard to Race To the Top and the $400 million blunder, Christie says we should move on to something “of substance.” Just move along. But this time, he doesn’t just get to decide that, and he knows it. You could hear the discomfort growing in the governor’s voice this week, as he blamed “mindless drones” in the Obama/Duncan Department of Education; the NJEA for not signing on (even though they actually did, before a hasty Memorial Day weekend re-write and subsequent roadtrip to Washington because they missed FedEx and UPS); blamed Tom Moran’s thin skin, El Nino, and the dog that ate his homework. Anyone and everyone. Because what you see is what you get, and this week everyone Chris Christie in deep and painfully obvious denial, paying lip service to the notion of being accountable; making excuses and “boldly” inviting Democrats to pile on. Chris Christie will throw his hands in the air, and wave them like he just don’t care, because we have work to do, and we have to move on, and anyone who doesn’t agree is a pussy and hates New Jersey.
Different parts of government serve different purposes, and therefore function and behave differently from one another. Some aspects are supposed to be more deliberate, studious, and thoughtful than others. Unfortunately for Governor Christie, his “move along” approach isn’t how these things work when you’re the governor. In a quiet panic, Chris Christie may dismiss the imminent hearing over his $400 million blunder as “partisan clap-trap,” but it is in this kind of response that we see exactly how much of Chris Christie is “what you see is what you get.” A lot.