In many of his recent speeches, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has tried to downplay partisanship. Yesterday’s remarks in Chicago were clearly the exception.
Christie delivered an “unexpectedly blistering broadside” condemning Democrats for all kinds of things, including prioritizing economic inequality. It was also fascinating to hear the New Jersey governor mock President Obama for entering office without “a respect for the other party.”
It’s an odd line of criticism – when Obama became president, he created a bipartisan cabinet and worked furiously to generate bipartisan support for his proposals in the midst of multiple crises. Christie aides, meanwhile, famously ridiculed “the children of Buono voters” stuck in paralyzing traffic imposed by Team Christie for political reasons. It may not be the ideal time for the governor to emphasize who has greater “respect for the other party.”
But then, there was this.
In his most expansive, engaging and combative remarks since scandal enveloped him, Mr. Christie … complained that George W. Bush was “grossly underappreciated” in the White House and seemed to make a novel case for his own, now-blemished candidacy for president in 2016.
Now, it’s hard to know how much of this sentiment has more to do to with political allegiance than Bush’s actual performance as president. After all, Bush made Chris Christie a U.S. Attorney despite the fact that Christie had no experience in law enforcement or as a prosecutor.
It was, in other words, the former president who helped put Christie’s political career back on track, so maybe the “grossly underappreciated” line is an expression of loyalty.
Or maybe it’s entirely sincere – if so, Christie would hardly be the only Republican talking this way.
Just last month, for example, Ed Gillespie started scrubbing his online record, deleting anything that might cause him embarrassment before launching a U.S. Senate campaign in Virginia, but he left his Bush/Cheney background intact.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), meanwhile, said not too long ago that he thinks George W. Bush “did a fantastic job as president over eight years.”
As we talked about last month, I’ve long believed the political world in general never fully came to grips with the scope and breadth of Bush’s failures as president, which might very well make it easier for some of his partisan admirers to argue with a straight face that he was “grossly underappreciated.”
But there’s some evidence the public isn’t really buying it. Just last week, a CNN poll found that a plurality of Americans hold Bush, not President Obama, principally responsible for the nation’s economic problems.