And … I can’t get it to make sense. It just doesn’t compute that he’d be taking this line if he wants to run for office, at any level, as a Republican.
In fact, by taking this line he’s disqualified himself from a cabinet position in any future Republican administration.
I’m reluctant to ever give politicians the benefit of the doubt that they’re acting from conscience but I’m running out of alternative explanations in Christie’s case. If his motive in showing up at the Reagan Library and saying stuff like this isn’t that he sincerely believes the GOP has gone astray and needs to course-correct, what is it? What’s his angle?
Chris Christie's advice for the GOP: "We need to face the realities of the 2020 election and learn, not hide from them. We need to discredit the extremists in our midst… the conspiracy theorists and the truth deniers." pic.twitter.com/GUj85sk3Tk
— Andrew Solender (@AndrewSolender) September 10, 2021
He may not be as willing to confront Trump as Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger are but he’s essentially aligned himself with them. Yet Cheney is all but finished in Congress and Kinzinger’s surely an underdog in his Illinois House primary. Joining the Cheney/Kinzinger caucus isn’t what you do if you have political ambitions.
So why is Christie doing it, if not because he feels morally impelled to do so?
“He wants a media gig.” Well, he has that. He’s an ABC contributor. And if he’s treating this as a tryout for some CNN anchor job, he’s spent enough time criticizing Trump over the past year that he doesn’t need to keep doubling down on it. (As an aside, Christie would make a great host for a cable news chat show. He’s smart and has tons more personality than most politicians.)
“He thinks the GOP will soon steer away from Trumpism, embracing old-school Republicans again.” Please. Even if he’s playing a long game in which he expects pre-Trump conservatism to reassert itself a decade from now (and why would he?), there will never come a moment when he’s rewarded for having criticized Trump. He might end up as more of an outcast, in fact, as Republican pols and voters channel their private misgivings about MAGA into punishing the people who had the stones to go public with their own. Either way, I doubt Christie sees a long game here. Not with Trump poised to run again for president and standing a solid chance of winning.
“He’s leaving the party.” Eh, maybe. But to what end? Democrats won’t accept him. And if he runs as an independent in 2024, he’s likely to help Trump by drawing anti-Trump votes away from Biden. Also, would he be giving speeches at the Reagan Library if his plan was to go indie?
“He’s getting ready to challenge Trump in 2024.” Right, probably. But why? Is it a legacy thing? (“The only Republican with the nerve to challenge the former president.”) Just a profile-raising exercise? Campaigning hard against Trump and getting all sorts of endorsements from the pre-Trump GOP establishment would give Christie a certain stature as a major figure in the anti-Trump GOP. But the anti-Trump GOP is a small group. Where’s the glory in losing a primary 85/15?
Occam’s Razor: Christie’s doing this because he thinks it’s the right thing to do and has nothing to lose. He’s going to speak his mind and let the chips fall where they may, knowing that they’re likely to land badly. That’s the Cheney/Kinzinger approach. Tell the truth, accept the consequences.
I’ll leave you with another soundbite from last night’s speech. No names are mentioned but it’s clear who he’s talking about.
Former Gov. Chris Christie: "No man, no woman, no matter what office they've held or wealth they've acquired, are worthy of blind faith or obedience. That's not who I am and that's not who we are as Republicans." pic.twitter.com/N87hp5k9SJ
— The Hill (@thehill) September 10, 2021