A leftover from yesterday but still moist and tasty. This was one of two Sunday-show appearances Christie was supposed to do but he never made it over to CNN for his scheduled interview with Jake Tapper. How come? Watch and see. Having been torn apart once by Stephanopoulos for his hypocrisy in endorsing Trump, Christie may have decided not to give Tapper a second opportunity. He probably thought, not implausibly, that since Trump tends to get pattycake interviews in his media appearances, he’d get the same treatment — questions about why he chose Trump over Rubio, how significant his endorsement is in legitimizing Trump, whether he has his eye on a cabinet position, and so on. Imagine his surprise when Stephanopoulos came to play.
The key to appreciating this clip is to note how fundamental candidate Christie’s disagreements with Trump were. We’re not talking about differences over tax rates here. This is big-picture stuff that cuts to the bone of Christie’s image as a pol who’ll give you the brutal truth even when you don’t want to hear it. Entitlement reform? Must be done, like it or not. Border security? Sure, but you’re never going to build a wall from coast to coast and Mexico’s obviously not going to pay for it. Barring Muslims from the U.S.? Nonsense. That’s a silly, unworkable pander in lieu of a serious natsec strategy. A guy who believes all of that should, you would think, be able to find a better alternative to Trump even in a diminished field. Here’s another example from this weekend, something that Trump should be getting pilloried for but which has slipped through the cracks in the rush to cover him playing dumb over David Duke and the KKK. One of Christie’s most famous moments as governor was standing up for the integrity of one of his judicial appointees; Christie also extensively targeted Latino votes in his reelection campaign, aiming to show the party that he could expand the tent as GOP nominee. Trump casually suggesting that the judge in his Trump University case is biased against him because he’s Latino is something that should have, and probably would have, made candidate Christie apoplectic. Instead he’ll have to look the other way. As Jonathan Last said, Trumpism corrupts.
Meg Whitman, the now former finance co-chair of Christie’s national campaign, all but called him a sellout in a statement released yesterday:
“Chris Christie’s endorsement of Donald Trump is an astonishing display of political opportunism. Donald Trump is unfit to be President. He is a dishonest demagogue who plays to our worst fears. Trump would take America on a dangerous journey. Christie knows all that and indicated as much many times publicly. The Governor is mistaken if he believes he can now count on my support, and I call on Christie’s donors and supporters to reject the Governor and Donald Trump outright. I believe they will. For some of us, principle and country still matter.” – Meg Whitman
The best thing you can say about Christie’s Trump endorsement is that it took no small amount of balls to do it. He’s not just betting on Trump winning the nomination (which is a safe bet), he’s betting that Trumpism will be a sufficiently durable force within the GOP that he’ll face no retaliation from the party for throwing in with Trump. “His days of leadership in the Republican Party are done,” said one former Bush White House advisor. George Will writes today that “Trump’s collaborators, like the remarkably plastic Chris Christie …, will find that nothing will redeem the reputations they will ruin by placing their opportunism in the service of his demagogic cynicism and anti-constitutional authoritarianism.” If Trump loses this fall, and that’s where the smart money will be throughout the summer, Christie’s looking at either a life in the private sector, probably as a lobbyist parasite feeding off the same Republican establishment that Trump’s vowed to smash, or running a quixotic Trump-style campaign in 2020 to see if he can reunite Trump’s coalition. Which won’t succeed, partly because Christie’s less likable than Trump is and partly because no one really respects a toady, including the people he’s toadying to.
But if Trump wins, who knows? Attorney General is a likely possibility, although a Twitter pal made me laugh this weekend by imagining that Trump wins the election — and then doesn’t offer Christie a job. I’ll go one better: Imagine Trump wins and nominates Christie for AG … and then the Senate, with GOP help, Borks him. Any schadenfreude on doomsday is ultimately hollow, but that’s sweet in the moment.
Update: Confirmed. Christie wimped out.
Following the noon endorsement on Friday, CNN announced that Christie would appear on Sunday’s “State of the Union” program with Jake Tapper, who has interviewed the governor several times in the past. But a source familiar with the matter said Christie’s camp grew concerned that Tapper was going to aggressively question Christie about Trump, and on Saturday night the governor bailed on the interview. This is unusual in the world of Sunday morning network news shows, and the Trump campaign offered the candidate himself in Christie’s place. (That led to an interview in which Trump refused to denounce a former KKK leader’s support for his campaign.)
Update: Anti-Trumpers are speculating that this is a sign that Christie’s about to un-endorse Trump. Not a chance. How would he possibly explain it?
Christie is holding a 3pm press conference. This should be fun
— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) February 29, 2016