I've avoided writing about Chris Christie, even though I'm a resident of New Jersey, because he appears to have achieved peak media saturation. Looking at the various articles, especially the ones about his sweaty embrace of Jerry Jones at a Cowboys game, I've decided it's time to examine the man a little more deeply, since no one else seems willing or able to do so. Christie is a gregarious chap, the kind the media loves for being good for a quote. It's in their interest to keep the Christie Show going, so their criticisms will always be muted by the hope that they don't sink his political career. The thing is, Christie is not a straight shooter, as the press would have you believe, he's a hustler.
Say what you want about the man, like most hustlers he's not stupid. People tend to forget that by the time of Hurricane Sandy his popularity was slipping, and Mitt Romney looked weak. Christie saw his opportunity: he distanced himself with Romney and cozied up to president Obama, all while talking big on TV in the storm's aftermath. He managed to get generous aid for the state (which he then used to reward his friends and punish his enemies), and also not to be tainted by Romney's failure, which certainly would have been the case had he been the GOP VP nominee. While this angered the Republican base, we all know it's the moneymen who hold the strings in that party, and they can appreciate Christie's ruthlessness when it comes to shredding the social safety net. (It's not for nothing that I refer to him as Fat Reagan.) He has managed to survive serious scandals and still be a viable presidential candidate. This is not a man to trifle with.
Christie owes much of the success of his hustle by fabricating some truly impressive narratives that happen to be completely untrue. He ran for governor as a "good government" man, someone who had a reputation for putting corrupt politicians behind bars as a US attorney. He came into office with guns blazing at teachers and other public workers, and turned this obvious assault on working people into a kind of populist anti-tax crusade. Despite the fact that he puffs himself up as an enemy of corruption, he has been running the state like an old school political boss.
The evidence keeps piling up. In regards to the hug of Jones, it appears that Christie lobbied to get a contract for a company part-owned by the Cowboys to run concessions at the new One World Trade skyscraper, which is managed by the Port Authority. This is the same Port Authority that acts without any oversight, especially now that Christie and his equally dirty counterpart Andrew Cuomo have vetoed legislation that passed the NJ statehouse unanimously that would have brought transparency. This is the same Port Authority that shut down lanes on the George Washington Bridge to punish Fort Lee. This is the same Port Authority that Christie has stuffed to the gills with patronage hires in a practice that resembles more Tammany Hall than anything else.
After spending money to get sinecures for Christie pals, the Port Authority is now jacking up tolls, and cutting back on nighttime train service. Beyond the Port Authority, Christie has taken campaign money from a financial services company that is paid to manage state pensions. Christie handed over management of the state's halfway houses to an outside company owned by a friend. He has profitted while inmates have been abused or allowed to go free. This is some Lincoln Steffens-level misgovernment, but our journalists today would rather kiss ass to get "access" than rake the muck.
You might wonder how Boss Christie manages to do all of this in a state where most people are Democrats. The answer is that he has become the boss of all bosses and owes his position in large part to state Democratic bosses like Joseph DiVincenzo and George Norcross, both of whom continue to support him. They refused to support their own candidate for governor to keep Christie in power, since he was going to keep the flow of patronage going their way, and shield them from prosecution. This is a mutually advantageous system where the grafters of both parties benefit and the rest of the state has to live with the higher tolls, inadequate mass transit, and slashed school budgets.
Of course, the average person, especially those outside of the tri-state area, are unaware of this. They think Christie is a brash, earthy straight-shooter fighting for lower taxes and better government. That narrative is a bald faced lie that shields a reincarnated machine boss and his authoritarian graft operation. I am not sure how Christie thinks that he can act like an old school boss and also be president, but until more people with bigger voices than mine expose the real Chris Christie, his hustle will still keep paying off.