Well, there’s nothing subtle about this, is there? The front page of today’s New York Times slimes Gov. Chris Christie for his “fondness for luxe benefits when others pay the bills.”
The governor, a Republican now preparing a run for president, shot to national prominence as a cheese-steak-on-the-boardwalk Everyman who bluntly preached transparency and austerity as the antidote to bloated state budgets. But throughout his career in public service, Mr. Christie has indulged a taste that runs more toward Champagne at the Four Seasons.
He has also quietly let others pay the bills.
That tendency — the governor himself says he wants to “squeeze all the juice out of the orange” — has put him in ethically questionable situations, taking benefits from those who stand to benefit from him.
The article has some juicier examples, but, for the record, Christie has always been cleared of accusations of ethical violations. That’s almost beside the point though, right? He cannot deny that he has enjoyed the benefits of his self-made success, which is precisely his real “sin,” as far as the class-warfare obsessed Times audience is concerned. And yes, there’s a throw-away line in there about Sec. Clinton also being known for her fondness for jaunts on private benefactors’ planes. But it is a throw-away line precisely because Christie is framed as the hypocrite. (BTW, is it even true that Christie came to prominence as an “Everyman”?)
I have written before about the news media’s tendency to rely on Designated Villains and that is precisely what is going on here. Christie is being portrayed as no longer the self-made man, but rather a corrupted form of the obnoxious nouveau riche. The point of this is to present Christie as unlike the average voter as possible. Not only is Christie wealthy and palling around with the wealthy and mooching off the wealthy, he is obnoxious about it. Cue photograph of hug.
It can be difficult for candidates to get away from this type of portrayal precisely because the framing is deliberately broad. Yes, Christie is living the good life. Is that a bad thing? No, of course not—at least it is not for most people. But Christie’s job for the next two years is to make voters like him. Nobody likes the dude sipping Champagne on somebody else’s tab at the Four Seasons.