Less bully, more pulpit, Gov. Christie


New York Times News Service

As far as inappropriate and nasty career moves go, Miley Cyrus has Chris Christie beat.

She did a raunchy twerk, while he was a rude twerp.

But Christie’s latest flash of a mean streak served as a reminder after a long period of glowing post-Sandy publicity for “The Boss,” as the New Jersey governor was hailed on the cover of Time, giving him the ultimate compliment of sharing a nickname with his idol.

Republicans who fear that their party has been hijacked by crazies, nihilists, conspiracy theorists and misogynists are turning their lonely eyes to Christie for 2016, believing him to be the not-as-heavy heavyweight who can save the party and fend off the Clinton restoration.

As Politico reported, the former prosecutor made his case to Republican leaders at the party’s summer meeting in Boston for how to win in 2016, presumably with a Jersey boy at the helm.

“We are not a debating society,” he said. “We are a political operation that needs to win.”

His brio impressed many GOP honchos who had been skeptical of his conservatism and Jersey Shore bromance with President Obama.

“I’m in this business to win,” said Christie, who is cruising to reelection. “I don’t know why you’re in it.”

He continued: “I think that we have some folks that believe that our job is to be college professors. Now college professors are fine, I guess. You know, college professors basically spout out ideas that nobody ever does anything about. For our ideas to matter, we have to win, because if we don’t win we don’t govern. And if we don’t govern, all we do is shout into the wind.”

But if Christie wants to be president, he may have to keep his own shouting in check. Americans want authenticity, which the governor has, and they like results, which the governor gets. But voters also like to elect nice guys, not belittling blowhards.

Christie’s tacky and out-of proportion lambasting of a New York Daily News sports reporter won’t get him into trouble. Everybody loves a good reporter flogging. But it was an early warning that while Christie has taken dramatic moves to solve his weight problem, he has not yet solved his temperament problem.

He clearly has not taken a lesson from his pal Obama that you can be an obsessive sports fan and still maintain class. The governor unleashed his torrent on a New York radio show Monday morning, trashing Jets reporter Manish Mehta for his criticism of New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, Christie’s friend, who shared his own lap-band experience with the governor before Christie had the procedure.

Mehta had repeatedly questioned Ryan during the postgame news conference about the coach’s decision to play Mark Sanchez in the fourth quarter of a preseason game that he considered “meaningless.” Sanchez suffered a shoulder injury that, Mehta concluded, “clouds the Jets’ quarterback situation.”

Christie, who is actually a Dallas Cowboys fan, ranted that Mehta was an “idiot,” a “dope” and a “self-consumed, underpaid reporter.” He added that they shouldn’t be talking about the reporter “who, by the way, I couldn’t pick out of a lineup and no Jets fan gives a damn about Manish Mehta.”

The News retaliated with a front-page headline, “Who you calling an idiot, fatso!”; unflattering Christie pictures; and a Mike Lupica column, “Attack of the Blob: Pick On Someone Your Own Size,” with a subhead, “Manish vs. the Meatball.”

Noting correctly that the biggest name in the Republican Party had made himself look “small,” Lupica mused, “Who knows? Maybe there is a stronger bond than we knew of between Christie and Ryan because they both have undergone lap-band surgery the past couple of years. Maybe it’s some kind of Lap-Band of Brothers deal.”

Dan Balz, the great Washington Post political reporter, reveals in his new best seller, Collision 2012, that Henry Kissinger, David Koch and other wealthy Republicans tried to woo Christie into the 2012 race, and that the self-regarding governor (who almost forgot to mention Mitt Romney in his nominating speech for Romney), “savored every moment.”

I asked Balz if Christie could survive the rigors of four town halls a day in Iowa and New Hampshire without getting tripped up by his mouthy East Coast moxie and his tendency to get very personal, very fast.

“He’s got a big personality; it’s a combative personality,” Balz replied. “That’s one of the reasons people were drawn to him last time around, a guy who would take on Obama in a way Romney seemingly wasn’t doing.

“There are times when it has worked terrifically for him, and there are moments when it threatens to go over the top. It’s an open question: If you’re running for president, can you do that very often and hope to be successful?”

“You can never predict what people are going to be like on the trail,” Balz concluded. “Witness Rick Perry.”

© 2013 New York Times News Service

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