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A Progressive Perspective: The Christie Memoir: Classic Chris Christie

Prior to the coming of President Donald Trump, there was Governor Chris Christie. Generally it is an oxymoron to use the term “mini” when describing anything about Governor Christie. He is a gargantuan political figure – bigger, bolder and more boisterous than any New Jersey politician in recent memory.

It’s, however, appropriate to describe Chris Christie as a “mini-Trump” from a temperamental perspective. The similarities between their pugilistic combative governing styles are striking and a fact that Christie acknowledges when he writes, “From a stylistic perspective, he [Trump] was everything I was, but on jet fuel.”

Unfortunately, “Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, New Jersey and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics,” Chris Christie’s new memoir, fails to discuss many of the most egregious examples of his over-the-top behavior that reflect Christie’s personality similarities with his long-time friend Donald Trump. Christie glossed over the many examples of his rudeness by writing that “If people were civil, I answered civilly. If people were rude, they got rudeness in return.” The book is nothing more than a 400-page puff piece designed to help him in the event he launches a post-Trump run for the presidency.

Only a person with the enormous ego of Chris Christie could think that someone who left office as the least popular governor in New Jersey’s history could have a national political future. In June 2017 the respected Quinnipiac poll of New Jersey voters found that 15% approved of Christie, and 81% disapproved. This was the lowest recorded approval rating of a New Jersey governor in history, and the lowest approval rating found by Quinnipiac for any governor in any state in more than two decades. Further, his performance in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries was underwhelming. He garnered just 7% of the vote in the crucial New Hampshire primary before dropping out of the race.

After defeating incumbent Jon Corzine in 2009, Chris Christie began his tenure as a centrist fiscally conservative Republican who was not afraid to speak his mind and who was willing on occasion to cross over and work with Democrats in the legislature. He cut taxes, vetoed the minimum wage increase, capped property taxes and provided tax cuts to the wealthy. He seemed to be a conservative in the mold of John McCain – someone who was an outspoken “straight shooter” and not a captive of political correctness. Christie was at his best during Hurricane Sandy when he told folks to “get the hell off the beach.”

Fairly quickly the real Chris Christie emerged – increasingly abrasive, frequently obnoxious and very vindictive. His nasty “take me as I am or leave me” bullying style included his losing his temper very quickly and very frequently. Let’s review a few of the many examples of Chris Christie sounding a lot like Donald Trump. All of which didn’t make the memoir.

Who could forget his labeling a law student as “idiot” and then a “jerk” for having the audacity to interrupt him at a press conference; or telling the State House press “to take the bat out on her [Senator Loretta Weinberger]’” or referring to then-Assemblyman, now Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora as “numb nuts” and calling a New York Post reporter a “dope.” The Governor’s over-the-top outrageous verbal behavior was not the result of lack of self-control; it was a conscious decision to demonstrate that he was different from your run-of-the-mill politicians who would tell folks what they thought they wanted to hear. Chris was a precursor of the in-your-face provocative approach that Donald Trump has taken from day one of his presidency.

The culmination of the arrogance of Chris Christie was Bridgegate (which got two chapters in the book), where investigations found that Christie’s office ordered the closure of roads leading to the George Washington Bridge during morning rush hour to “get back” at a Democratic mayor who did not support the Governor’s re-election. Two of his senior aides remain free on bail following their convictions for their role in punishing the citizens of Fort Lee for their mayor’s unwillingness to toe the line.

While no evidence has surfaced that proved that Christie had prior knowledge of or directed the road closures, he clearly fostered a culture that led his staff to feel that it was OK to punish an elected official who was not supportive of the Governor by causing “traffic problems in Fort Lee.”

This is exactly the same pattern we are seeing with the seven aides and associates of Donald Trump who are facing prosecution or jail time for their actions during the Trump campaign and or his presidency. So far there is no unequivocal evidence that confirms that the president had knowledge or approved any of the repugnant activities that have taken place. I would not be at all surprised to hear President Trump utter the same words that Governor Christie reiterated when interviewed by ABC after Bridgegate. He said he was shocked by the actions of his former aides, stating that “Sometimes, people do inexplicably stupid things.”

For those of us who live in New Jersey, Chris Christie was the warm-up act to Donald Trump.