November 5, 2012
SURPRISE! Chris Christie's 2016 Gambit
By Anthony Barnes
It's too easy to translate Christie's over-the-top tributes to President Obama right after Hurricane Sandy as the Governor's way of sabotaging Romney's campaign. It seemed more like the manifestation of Christie's inner fears about the potential long-term impact of the "Romney Effect" on the GOP brand.
run Barack Obama out of the White House .
Their pissed-off reaction casts the impression that the lack of subtlety in Christie's unambiguously pro-Obama post-hurricane chatter has a whole bunch of Repubs feeling like they've been trampled on by a turncoat Republican. Yet, for the Obama camp -- along with anyone who feels that what goes around should come around -- the criticism of Christie's fulsome bi-partisanism by some of his GOP brethren offered a rare opportunity to indulge in a bit of unabashed schadenfreude.
It certainly was in this quarter. I'm unashamedly welcoming of the shameful joy I feel about the utterly luckless yet entirely warranted turn of events exacted on a callous and mendacious campaign that -- until perhaps just moments after Hurricane Sandy made landfall -- was all but proclaiming victory. Instead, no sooner had the skies cleared did it become apparent that Mitt's campaign was being "Romneyed" by Christie.
If being Romneyed could be loosely defined as: to say something to one crowd and something entirely different to another, then this term probably applies to a situation where a guy who delivers the keynote speech for his party's candidate later provides what amounts to a series to 30-second promos on behalf of the guy his candidate is running against.
This nascent Christie-Obama "bromance" clearly caught the GOP's Obama posse wide open which, in true reactionary form, led to a humdrum outpouring of boilerplate shrill from the usual posse of sanctimonious GOP purists including, the purest of the pure, Rush Limbaugh:
"New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has decided to play the role of a Greek column today for President Obama," fulminated Rush on his radio program.
Christie in 2016
But did Christie pull a full Romney; or was it something a bit different? I don't actually translate Christie's effusive praise of Obama as the Governor's way of sabotaging Romney's campaign. It seemed more like the manifestation of Christie's inner fears about the potential long-term impact of the "Romney Effect" on the GOP brand. My guess is that if the Republicans had been smart enough to nominate a mainstream pol like Tim Pawlenty, the torrid -- albeit unmistakably symbiotic -- post-hurricane dalliance between Christie and Obama would have never happened. Why? Because Christie has no apparent issues with his party's Pawlentys -- i.e., Republicans with core values. Thus, it's easy to assume that since Mitt stands for nothing, a politician like Christie -- who leaves no room for doubt about his own ideologies -- probably can't stand Mitt. That keynote speech was an exercise in party loyalty and opportunity to further establish a path for the Governor's own political future, not an indication of his fondness for Mitt.
As for the outrage by Rush and company, it seems at best, misguided. After having endured a treacherous run of epic political ineptitude from Romney, you'd think that Limbaugh and other Christie critics would be convulsed in rapture over the actual political brilliance of Christie's bi-partisan post-disaster gambit. In the short run, it's the kind of bi-partisan grandstanding that is likely to assure that blue state New Jersey will remain controlled by a GOP governor.
But more importantly, Christie's maneuvering could eventually provide what Limbaugh and all the rest of those calling for Christie's scalp today been craving for since the nomination process began several months ago -- a Republican in the White House in 2016. Because let's face it; at the time of this writing, Election Day was just 48 hours away and it seemed clear that Romney was not going to win the presidency. But even if he has somehow finagled his way into the White House the fact remains that Mitt is exceedingly unpopular among his fellow Republicans therefore lacks much of a buffer against a 2016 party challenge from within by the likes of Bush, Marco Rubio, Pawlenty and yes, Chris Christie.
Mitt's unpopularity among fellow Republicans could mean that even if elected, traditional political protocol may be tossed out the window in 2016. Mitt's unpopularity could certainly remove any deterrent against challenges for the nomination by a fellow Republican. That's a likelihood that could increase if Republicans develop enough insecurity about Romney's prospects for re-election; something that could emerge if a Democrat as formidable as Hillary Clinton decides to run.
I think Christie realizes all this and simply decided that Hurricane Sandy was as fortuitous a time as any to begin campaigning for both re-election as Governor and for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. Does he care that by looking ahead to 2016 today he's helping to dash Mitt and the GOP's nearer-term 2012 hopes? Probably not, especially if he believes that Mitt's going to lose anyway or if he believes that a Romney victory would in fact leave the GOP vulnerable in the near-term as well as jeopardize its long-term future.
Millionaires and suckers
It has long been obvious that for many voters, particularly Romney partisans, the term caveat emptor has no relevance. Rather than buyer beware it's buyer's remorse that seems to characterize the outcomes of those who live their lives -- both personally and politically -- within what's been described as "the comfort of a lie ." It is from within this comfort zone where the distinctive characteristic of many Republicans to both rage and vote against their own interests lay. It speaks to the premise that there are only two kinds of Republicans -- millionaires and suckers.
Sometimes the millionaires and the suckers are one in the same. Right off the bat, I'm thinking folks like Donald Trump, Sheldon Adelson, and Limbaugh. Today, each of those millionaires is probably hopping mad at what Chris Christie said and did in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. But tomorrow's another day. We won't find out how mad they are at Christie or, if the Governor suckered that specific cluster of old fools -- along with others like Karl Rove or the Koch brothers -- until probably around 2015. That's when Christie will be in the thick of the race for the GOP nomination.
Taking into account past behaviors, I predict that by then Rush will be sitting as squarely on the Chris Christie bandwagon as he was just before Sandy struck; Trump will probably be trumpeting the virtues of Christie's over someone like, say, Jeb Bush or Colin Powell. Meanwhile benefactors like Adelson and the Koch brothers will still be playing sugar daddy, only this time, on behalf of the Jersey governor.
So where some see the GOP as a party of millionaires and suckers I see it as a party of chickens whose process of political decision-making originates from a path of cognitive dissonance. And until the Republican Party departs from that path of stupefied, post-rational sub-normality; it will always be the Colonel -- as in Sanders -- who will get the chicken vote.
For 2012, Colonel Sanders came to the GOP in the form of Mitt Romney, which is something Chris Christie seems to understand all too well.
Anthony Barnes, of Boston, Massachusetts, is a free-lance writer who leans toward the progressive end of the political spectrum.
"When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn't change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn't change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world." - Unknown Monk (1100 AD)