New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) delivered a widely noticed speech in September 2011, condemning President Obama in a fairly specific way. “We continue to wait and hope that our president will finally stop being a bystander in the Oval Office,” the governor said. “We hope that he will shake off the paralysis that has made it impossible for him to take on the really big things.”
Even at the time, the rhetoric was bizarre, since Obama has spent his entire presidency taking on “really big things,” and more often than not, succeeding. But this week, Christie revised his entire perspective on the president, complaining Obama acts “as if he is a king, as if he is a dictator.”
I’ve long been amazed at the degree to which conservatives have contradictory complaints about the president, and this is emblematic of the pattern. Obama can be a hapless bystander, doing too little, or he can be a tyrannical dictator, doing too much, but he can’t be both.
On Monday, Christie went a little further. The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe noted this gem from the scandal-plagued governor:
“We have a guy in the Oval Office who we don’t know. He’s been serving us for seven years and we don’t know him.”
I suppose the obvious question for Christie is, “What do you mean ‘we’?” After all of these years, some of us have gotten to know and understand this president quite well. After a two-year national campaign in 2007 and 2008, an autobiography, and seven years of intense scrutiny in the White House in which his every move was analyzed from every direction, it’s hard to imagine the public knowing a stranger better than we know Barack Obama. There is no mystery about who this “guy” is.
But that’s probably not where the governor is going with this.
The New Republic’s Jeet Heer noted the other day that Christie isn’t being literal, so much as he’s “pandering to GOP mythology.”
[Christie’s comments] partially echo long-held Republican complaints that Obama hasn’t been properly vetted. But they also play into the large set of tropes about Obama being alien, mysterious, un-American. As is his wont, Donald Trump proclaimed these themes more loudly when he suggested that Obama might have an ulterior motive (cough, cough, secret Muslim) for the deal he negotiated with Iran. “It’s almost like there has to be something else going on,” Trump said in a speech on Saturday night.Like many of the other Republican candidates, Christie is trying to play the role of the thinking man’s Trump, and making a fool of himself in the process.
Agreed. When Christie tells Republican audience Americans don’t “know” the president, he’s dipping his toes into ugly waters. The governor must know better, and it’s a shame he appears to see this as necessary for his presidential ambitions.