Wednesday, November 1, 2023

I thanked and encouraged Chris Christie

I said to Chris Christie: 
    "History is going to be pretty kind to you. Your children and grandchildren are going to be proud to carry your name."
I had a brief one-on-one talk with Chris Christie. 

It was a moment of calm in the middle of a crowded morning for him. Our conversation took place in the conference room of the New Hampshire Secretary of State.

Chris Christie had made his way into the New Hampshire Statehouse for his 10:00 a.m. appointment to sign paperwork to get onto the presidential ballot. Christie walked through the long hallway leading to the Secretary of State's office. There were about 20 or 30 well-wishers, a small crowd. The signing desk was surrounded by TV cameras, microphones, and journalists holding smart phones. He bantered with the Secretary of State, signed, and gave an envelope with ten $100 bills. 

"In New Jersey we trust cash," he said.

Then he entered the adjacent conference room and answered questions from local and national news organizations for about 40 minutes.

I asked a question about his having just said he spent three days as Trump's debate-prep coach for the first Trump-Biden debate. That was the one where Trump came across as an overbearing bully. Christie said that that debate "cost Trump the election." Christie said Trump did the opposite of his advice. 

He was brutal in his criticism of Trump's illegality, vanity, dishonesty, incompetence, and danger to democracy.

At meeting's end, he got up. I was right next to Christie, at his side. Christie's sense of comfortable physical distance is unusual. In earlier town meetings he had explained that he is blunt and direct because his family is Sicilian. We are in each others' faces, he said. Men hug. Christie stands close to others when he talks. Men talk belly to belly. Talking with him, I could feel his breath. He took my outstretched hand and moved in. Our faces were a foot apart, maybe less. It was just us. I could speak softly, earnestly.

Governor, history is going to be pretty kind to you. Your children and grandchildren will be proud to carry your name. Some of the other guys, not so much. 

What you are doing here may not work out this year, but you are laying down a record for America and yourself. You are shaping your legacy. Look, both of us are going to die, and we are going to be dead a long, long time. You are writing the history people will remember.

I knew I was breaking a taboo. We don't talk about death as if it will really happen, and here I am telling someone he will die. I hadn't rehearsed this meeting in my mind, since I had no idea I would be standing right beside him, but even in the moment I had the wit to say "both of us are going to die." I didn't want this to sound like a threat. 

Throughout this, I was shaking his hand, nodding, looking right into the eyes immediately in front of me. He was doing the same. He said, "Thank you. This means a lot." 

Who knows what he really thought. He is a politician, on the job. Maybe he thought this weird, and a silent nod of apparent connection and agreement is non-committal and unlikely to get one into trouble. But I don't think so. He seemed to get it. He didn't seem quick to break off our meeting, and he appeared to be well aware he was shaping -- repairing -- his legacy.

One does not need to consider Christie a selfless patriot here. He is re-writing his place in history, yes, but he is also building his career as a TV commentator and pundit. And possibly, depending on how 2024 works out and if Trump and Trump-ism go into disfavor, he is shaping his political future for 2028. James Madison understood that the counter to runaway power for a demagogue like Trump is the ambition of others. The founders hoped for virtue, but they relied on ambition. Ambition checks ambition. I welcome Christie's ambitions. But he draws small crowds and he has no realistic hope of short-term success. He cannot avoid seeing that. I wanted him to think bigger, about his legacy. 

Liz Cheney said a year ago that her fellow Republicans who stood by and tolerated Trump "will not be judged well by history.”

Americans are better than Trump. Most of us. History will judge.


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Mike Steely said...

“Americans are better than Trump. Most of us. Eventually. History will judge.”

Germans were better than Hitler too. Most of them. But he still took over. Between gerrymandering, the electoral college and the right-wing noise machine, it can happen here.

Low Dudgeon said...

Ambition and legacy flourish in inverse proportion, at least for Republicans viewed from the transactional Democratic media perspective. Perhaps Christie will yet rise high enough again to be re-marginalized as if from the outset.

Dave said...

I love listening to him talk about Trump. I wish Biden could do what he does. I wish other Republicans would do what he does. I wish Fox News would do what he does.

Anonymous said...

It's good that you spoke to him. Real Republicans (i.e., the normal ones) need support and encouragement. It is not easy being in the minority and being an outcast amongst your own people. The GQP is like a very dysfunctional family these days.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Peter, for conveying my very thoughts directly to Christie. I saw him act similarly in defense of a Muslim appointee of his, in NJ. He can be a force, and I believe he's quite brilliant. His is the best anti-Trump voice out there.

Brian1 said...

Liz Cheney has an "A" rating from Susan B Anthony's pro-life foundation. Do you think she loses any sleep at all over this? Being judged by history means nothing. The dead man doesn't know he is dead.

This is what humans are. You need a higher J6 body count if anyone is going to even care 10 years from now.

Good luck next November.

Mike Steely said...

Brian1 has a good point. If someone lacks a conscience, why would he care how history judges him? And without a high body count, who cares about an attempted coup?

We don’t need luck next November; we need an electorate that cares about our Republic. Among Republicans, that’s obviously in short supply.

Mc said...

Christie is an opportunistic conman.
Why do republicans fall for conmen?