Chris Christie’s “Tough Guy” Shtick

Chris ChristieThe thing that impresses me about Chris Christie is how he manages to have the reputation of an brave truth-teller while being as craven a politician as there is. I still remember his big Bridgegate press conference where he was gentle as a lamb. What’s really going on with him is just the manipulation of power. He knows better than other politicians what power he has and just what he can get away with. As such, it speaks poorly of people and people in New Jersey specifically that they buy his act. When I call him a bully, I don’t say it lightly. I call him that because he attacks the powerless. He’s never stood up to a powerful person or institution in his life.

It’s interesting that New Jersey should be so associated with The Sopranos. It is a relatively accurate presentation of the mob as a bunch of thugs who feed on the weak. And that is what Christie is all about. The fact that he wears a nice suit and has a law degree doesn’t change anything. In fact, that is the traditional form that thugs take. Christie just adds the yelling and the tough guy act and the people eat it up. But we all know that if Christie were around real tough guys he’d be groveling and asking if he could polish their shoes.

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo provided an update on one of Christie’s most recent acts of “tough guy” politics, More on Christie’s Ditched Ebola Policy. You may remember earlier this month when Christie quarantined nurse Kaci Hickox. It was hugely popular, because once again, the people of New Jersey believed his brave truth-teller act even though the decision was pure demagoguery.

Along with locking Hickox in a cage for three days, Christie came up with a whole plan to deal with the Ebola crisis that wasn’t happening. Big plans were made. But once Christie got credit for “being tough” the whole project was abandoned. Susan Livio at NJ explained, NJ Police Force Earned 500-Plus Hours of Overtime Guarding Empty Hospital for Ebola Quarantine. It was all a political stunt, which is pretty much all that Christie does:

[PBA Local 113 Attorney Stuart] Alterman called the Hagedorn assignment “an impulsive way to deal with an acute situation that was neither planned very well or executed very well.” He said officers in the 94-member police force were concerned and frustrated they were provided no training to respond in the event a quarantined person become ill.

This morning, Jim Newell wrote an appropriate article over at Salon, No, Chris Christie Isn’t “Back”: Why He May Be Confident, but His Moment Has Passed. It discusses a front page profile by Mark Leibovich in The New York Times magazine:

What Leibovich’s piece omits all mention of is a useful metric for determining whether people do get tired of Christie’s schtick after it loses its novelty. Perhaps — a look at the public opinion polls of New Jersey residents? A late-October survey registered Christie’s statewide approval at 41 percent. That’s low.

It’s nice to think that the people of New Jersey are waking up to Christie’s shtick. I’m not convinced. The people of New Jersey seem to be deluded about who they are, and Christie is very good at using that. Just the same, I’ve never felt that Christie’s act would play in Iowa where it would just be seen as nasty (which it is). Still, given a bad economy in 2016, Christie could easily become president. That would be bad from a policy standpoint, and you can well imagine him turning the White House into a Nixon-like crime headquarters. But more than that, I don’t think I could take years of Christie’s act on the national stage.

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