January 10, 2013

Jesus Christie, Superstar

Largely on the strength of his short-term bro-mance with President Obama a few months ago, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is now the man who can save the Republican Party from itself.  His "straight talk," coupled with his willingness to seek "bipartisan solutions" and "work across the aisle" is just the elixer to fix our dysfunctional political system.

His empathy towards storm victims and his fierce determination to get them the relief they need shows Christie has the "common touch" all great leaders -- nay, presidents -- need to demonstrate if they dare to dream of occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  His willingness to criticize anyone, even House Speaker John Boehner, for standing between him and aid to Superstorm Sandy victims caused the flutter of a million moderate hearts.

Cue Time cover story!  Chris Matthews, the thrill up your leg is back!

There's just one tiny, tiny problem with the nascent hero worship of Mr. Moderate: this tiny thing right here.

Oh, and maybe this.

Right - this, also, is probably something that people should think about, too.

From where I sit inside the beltway, Christie looks an awful lot like the shiny object we pundits and reporters tend to chase without much thought.  He made a splash with what I interpreted as genuine caring and concern of Superstorm Sandy victims, and his praise of President Obama was justified.  After all, the president put Christie first in line to alleviate the suffering, keeping in touch with him day and night, offering him a direct line to the Oval Office -- just as a president should.

I'd be surprised if some pretty influential New Yorkers, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, didn't get access and a few late-night phone calls, too.  After all, Jersey wasn't the only state affected by the tragedy.

But Christie's larger-than-life personality, and the breathless, will-he-or-won't-he parlor game surrounding his potential 2012 presidential run, amped up his role in the post-storm tragedy to a higher level.  Suddenly, the man who bashed Obama like a pinata in Tampa is now openly embracing the guy who's going to help his state get back on his feet again.

That embrace was rewarded with a few perks that showed Obama playing up the relationship, as well, in what I consider one of the purest displays of bipartisanship, ever, for mutual political gain.

The underlying facts, however, haven't changed: Christie is a Republican who agrees with, say, 90 percent of his party's platform, including spending and the role of the federal government.  He made a big show of rejecting federal money for a badly-needed tunnel into New York to show how tough he is on federal spending.  And he gutted some state social welfare programs for the same reason, with at least one tragic result as a consequence.

Christie took his barbed wit and outspokenness to his own party -- and to Speaker John Boehner's hide -- only after Boehner blocked aid to his state, for obvious poltical reasons.  Like the rest of the "moderates" in his party with higher ambitions, The Big Man was mum when Republicans in DC decided to wreck the economy and play Russian roulette with the debt ceiling in the name of getting Obama out of the White House by 2012.

Still, let's say for the sake of argument that Christie's new bipartisan religion is the real thing -- that he believes the GOP has gone too far to the right, and recalibration of its relationship with Democrats is in order.  Then what?

Does anyone seriously believe that Christie could actually make it to a general election in this Republican Party?  The one that gave a serious look-see to Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Herman Cain? The same party that forced Mitt Romney so far to the right that he all but disavowed his governorship of true-blue Massachusetts?  The party that pretty much created a permanent Tea Party majority in the House?

If you believe that, I've got a tunnel to New York I'd like to sell you.

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