There are meaningful, substantive questions about Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) bridge scandal that will offer the public salient information about alleged corruption and abuses of power. But if you’ll indulge a brief departure from what actually matters in this story, there’s another angle that’s generating some attention: what we’re learning about Christie himself.
At last week’s lengthy press conference, there was a moment that stood out for offering a peek into the governor’s personality. Christie was knocking down reports that his friendship with David Wildstein dates back to their high school days. The governor said he and Wildstein had different pursuits at the time, but note how he said it:
“We didn’t travel in the same circles in high school. You know, I was the class president and athlete. I don’t know what David was doing during that period of time.”
For Christie, it wasn’t enough to distance himself from the man who served as his eyes and ears at the Port Authority; the governor also felt the need to mention his high-school stardom.
As Dana Milbank put it:
Christie apologized profusely – but not for anything he did. “I’m telling you: I had nothing to do with this,” he pleaded. Instead, he blamed bad people who lied to him, taking advantage of his trusting and honorable nature.Even in disgrace, the New Jersey governor – and the nominal front-runner for the 2016 GOP nomination – managed to turn his nationally televised news conference into a forum on the virtues of his favorite subject: himself…. Christie takes worship of self to a whole new level.
Even Peggy Noonan complained that Christie “tends toward solipsism and is too interested in his feelings.”
Again, when it comes to scrutinizing the unfolding controversy, the governor’s personal capacity for arrogance and narcissism ranks pretty low on the list of priorities. But as Christie continues to position himself as a player on the national stage, developments like these help the public get to know the politician as a person.
And in this case, what we’re learning about Chris Christie isn’t altogether flattering.
In August 2012, the New Jersey governor was tapped for an important role: Christie delivered the keynote address at the Republican National Convention. It was widely panned by everyone who watched – Christie went on (and on) celebrating himself, his background, his family, and his virtues. As Rachel noted on the air that night, “He waited 1,800 words into a 2,600 word speech to even bring [Mitt Romney] up” – and since it was supposed to be a speech about why voters should support Romney, it seemed Christie had missed the point, assuming the spotlight was all about him.
What we didn’t know until later is that Christie threatened to throw a tantrum on live television, disrupting his party’s own convention, unless RNC officials agreed to air a three-minute video special about Chris Christie before Christie’s speech. Fearing how far the governor might go, RNC organizers eventually gave in and did as Christie insisted.
Christie also spoke at great length to the Washington Post’s Dan Balz about the importance of his endorsement, how many people wanted him to run in 2012, and the scope of his expansive influence in American politics. Reading the governor’s on-the-record comments to Balz, it’s hard not to get the sense that Christie has taken self-regard to an almost amusing level.
One got the same sense last week, following, “You know, I was the class president and athlete….”