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The Day the Governor Blew Up

The Thug Politics of Chris Christie

by KARL GROSSMAN

I have wondered why much of the U.S. mainstream media had been promoting Chris Christie. Television stresses “likability” in on-air personalities and guests, a high “Q-score.” But there was the New Jersey governor —mean-spirited, given to vicious attacks on people—a fixture as a guest on TV, especially on NBC’s Today show. Why were big corporate media boosting, cheerleading for this neo-Nixon?

The U.S. business press can be revealing sometimes and the current issue of Fortune is about Christie with an article headed: “Chris Christie: Can Corporate America’s Candidate Get Out of This Jam?
The “Chamber of Commerce wing of the GOP had singled out Christie—a pro-business, pro-Wall Street, tough-on-unions blue-stater—as its best hope for a friend in the White House after eight years in the wilderness,” reports the piece written by Tory Newmyer.

“Until this crucible” known as “Bridgegate,” Christie “had been the beneficiary of a national press corps that celebrated his straight talk shtick…That treatment helped inflate his profile well beyond his home state…”

Will the scandal sink Christie’s pursuit of becoming president of the U.S.? Not for one Christie backer cited in the piece, Dan Lufkin, “co-founder of storied Wall Street firm Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette,” who praises “Christie’s response to the bridge mess.” Lufkin is quoted as saying: “He took quick drastic action…It’s another demonstration of his straightforwardness.” The piece also acknowledges: “When the fuller story of the traffic troubles is revealed, however, that Christie image could wobble badly enough to collapse; his advantage is that he may have time to repair the damage. If he can’t, conversations with party wise men and Wall Street donors suggest a troubling fact for the Garden Stater: Establishment esteem for him runs wide but not particularly deep.”

The Christie explosion isn’t unexpected. “He was a ticking time bomb as a politician. It was only a matter of time before he blew up,” wrote Michael Cohen in the British newspaper The Guardian after Bridgegate began unfolding.

In 2012 Mitt Romney realized the deep downsides of Christie when he searched for a vice presidential running mate and found Christie lacking, according to the book Double Down.  Among negative things found by the Romney camp in vetting Christie, says the book, were his free-spending habits as a U.S. attorney, problematic clients when he was a lobbyist and a lawsuit for defamation he settled with an apology. These and other matters constituted “a host of potential red flags pertaining to his record,” reported The Washington Post in an article in November headlined: “What Mitt Romney learned about Chris Christie in 2012 and why it matters for 2016.”

Of Bridgegate, “What’s so damaging to Christie about these revelations is that they expose him and his brain trust as breathtakingly venal and vindictive,” stated Joshua Green on Bloomberg Businessweek.

New Jersey native, writer and humorist Marvin Kitman, in his “The Christie Chronicles,” has been writing about “The Decline and Fall of the Christie Empire.”   In the installment “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Christie?” Kitman tells how his “progressive friends” have been watching excerpts from the marathon 108-minute Christie press conference “expecting that every time the governor denied knowing anything about the GWB [George Washington Bridge] lane closures, his nose would grow longer, the so-called Pinocchio Effect in jurisprudence.”  Those claims of no knowledge are now unraveling. Kitman predicts that: “Is the governor guilty will be a regular feature on TV news, like the weather and sports, until 2016.” Earlier, in 2011, the sage Kitman declared: “I want Governor Chris Christie to run for president. It’s the best way to get him out of the state.”

Chris Christie will hopefully go down as a hot-tempered, hyper- ambitious politician inflated in importance by a good chunk of U.S. media delighted to promote “Corporate America’s Candidate” for president.  Hopefully, the nasty, ethically-challenged Christie will fade—before doing some huge national, indeed international, damage.

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College of New York, is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.