The question is a truly difficult one. I used to find Christie’s bluntness and boldness refreshing. I don’t mind his aggressive manner – it’s entertaining at least, and we can all use some personality in our politics at times. I’m in favor of standing up to public sector union mediocrity. I like his relative social liberalism, especially in the madrassa-like swamps of the GOP base. He may even be exonerated in the Bridgegate scandale.
But then you just read about him. It’s clear to anyone with eyes and ears by now that he is an almost pathologically ambitious figure, who has no qualms about persecuting his enemies, pettily seeking payback when necessary, and using public office to pursue political vendettas. What you really see in the Bridgegate mess is his desire to get Democratic party officials to endorse him to burnish his bipartisan credentials for a national race. If they didn’t, they had something to fear in New Jersey. He’s a big guy, in other words, with a tendency to punch down and suck up.
And now we have the other dimension of his egomania and taste for power and celebrity:
As he has traveled more widely, particularly during the last year … Mr. Christie’s first-class tastes have become well known. He made it clear when he campaigned for Mr. Romney in 2012 that he would do out-of-state events only if he was given a private plane, even during the primary, when the candidate’s wife was still flying commercial to save money. The Romney campaign came to understand that he preferred a Cessna Citation X, which, its manufacturer boasts, has exotic wood interiors and a Rolls-Royce engine.
While many high-profile Republican politicians resist insinuating themselves into celebrity circles, Mr. Christie seeks them out — Howard Stern in the Hamptons; Donald J. Trump at Jean-Georges in Manhattan, where the menu begins at $128 per person. He danced onstage with Jamie Foxx at a celebrity benefit at the Hamptons in August before a crowd that included Barbra Streisand, Paul McCartney, Jack Nicholson and Robert De Niro.
These habits and tastes are not unique to Christie, nor are they mortal sins. He has much in his record to be proud of, even though New Jersey’s current economic health is not exactly an advertisement for good government. But the more we learn about him, the more troubling a figure he seems to be. He can lash out; he can do rash things; he can be vindictive; he bullies; he does his best to cover things up; he has close ties and receives gifts from those who inevitably have business before the state; he acts like a minor princeling rather than a simply governor.
Of the entire GOP field, I find him the most troubling. I don’t trust him to wield power without corruption, small and potentially large. I do not believe he has the steady or calm character to be a solid president of the United States. I might as well say that now. For the record.
(Photo: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks to a full house at a Reform Agenda Town Hall meeting at the New Jersey Manufacturers Company facility in Hammonton, New Jersey on March 29, 2011. By Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images.)