Where Christie Went Wrong

I give the governor’s stunning announcement speech Tuesday morning four Jersey tomatoes. Not to throw at him.

Once I got over the surprise that he has decided to run, after all, it was a very stirring speech. I could hear the crowd in his old high school gym chanting “We’re Number Fourteen.” At least I think that’s what they were shouting in the bedlam. It could have been 17 or 18, including one congenital idiot. I’ve lost count in the largest field in the history of national elections. Whatever the number, the folks were really excited about the local boy’s rise to prominence, running for the most important job in the nation, if not the world.

The media was less enthusiastic. By Tuesday night, Lawrence O’Donnell, the most astute of the opinionators on cable network news, was conducting a pool, guessing the date of the governor’s concession speech. The consensus on MSNBC, which we Republicans tune in to be fair and balanced, is that the governor’s sell-by date has expired.

As the governor lambasted the president on his foreign policy — making him sound as the most ineffective dreamer since that other former New Jersey governor, Woodrow Wilson and his grandiose 14 points (of which Clemenceau was heard to remark, “14? God only had 10”)— my mind somehow went back to Sept. 5, 2011.

I found myself wondering if the governor wasn’t eating heart out –one of the ingredients allowed on his new miracle diet – about the decision he announced on that historic date.

You probably don’t remember, the perpetual First Lady Nancy Reagan had invited him to deliver the keynote address at the Reagan Library.

As the cameras panned the audience, it seemed the entire Republican establishment leadership was in the seats. They were desperately looking for an alternative to run against Mitt the Bore. Nobody else wanted it. The leaders were ready to hand it to the governor on a platter. Not since the crowning of Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 did anybody have such a clear path to the nomination. They were eating out of his hand. He had the nomination for the asking. Good God, this only happens once in a political lifetime. Barbara Walters even predicted he would run, tantamount to a done deal. It was as if the audience was ready to break out with their version of “Born to Run.”

Meanwhile, the “Christie for President in 2012” machine was secretly meeting in the back room of the Hackensack IHOP. Led by Rudy Giuliani and his Hench people, the pros were lining up financial commitments from well-heeled Christie supporters.

It’s your job, if you want it, the establishment was saying. The governor could have been the conquering hero!

And then he made his famous speech: “No, I am not ready to be president.”

Instead, he decided to prepare himself for 2016 by running and winning a second term as New Jersey governor

As a result, Chris Christie is now as popular in New Jersey as Abraham Lincoln was in the Deep South in 1860.

He was very foolish. Look, even if he ran and lost in 2012 he would have gotten name recognition and be able to run again this time. Now people are looking for a fresh face, and it isn’t his.

Under the leadership of Chris (Almost Ran) Christie, New Jersey is falling off the cliff. The state’s credit rating has been lowered nine times. We are now 48th in new job creation. The state’s Transportation Fund is bankrupt. Already first in corruption, among our laurels, we are first in potholes and bridges about to fall down.

Just think, if he had taken the bid in 2012, he wouldn’t have the Bridge Scandal, which all the pundits were saying this week is his Achilles sole as well as heel. But why go on.

Compared to what has happened to his aura since turning his back on good fortune, losing in 2012 to Obama the foreign policy whiz would have been a good career move. He could have come back as a fresh face, having turned to an honorable profession as a lobbyist. Maybe even become an NFL football coach. The Jersey Jets could have done better with him.

In a way, it was perhaps appropriate that our governor should have chosen to announce his presidential campaign at his old high school. His entire career in Trenton has smacked of his administration as his class president, an office in which he served three terms.

As the cheers rang through the Livingston H.S. gymnasium Tuesday morning, and the Christie hordes go to meet the foe, the words of another New Jersey icon ran through my mind. As Terry Malloy the boxer said in the Hoboken tourist promotion piece, “On the Waterfront”: “Christie, you coulda been a contenda.”



Marvin Kitman
July 1, 2015

Marvin Kitman is the author of “The Making of the Preƒident 1789.” “George Washington’s Expense Account” by Gen. George Washington and Marvin Kitman PFC (Ret.) was the best-selling expense account in publishing history.

Public Domain Photo by National Park Service Photographer Jack E. Boucher.