On Friday afternoon, we reached peak Chris Christie.
It was a subdued affair, taking place in Texas– far from his home, but closer the football team he loves. There was no marching band playing “Hail to the Chief,” no Bruce Springsteen crooning “Born in the U.S.A.” There was only a muted Donald Trump, nodding approvingly.
It’s been a long trek. He’d scrambled from crag to mire, election to re-election, fearlessly facing union teachers, ice-cream hecklers and Romney staffers. All for the people of New Jersey.
Narratives are more important than anything for politicians — just ask Hillary Clinton, the relentless public servant young people don’t want and old people don’t trust. And as with the senator from New York, whose motives grew more and more questionable the richer she got and the higher she climbed, so too for Mr. Christie. (Bedford 2013: Why Chris Christie Won’t Win The Presidency)
He began with the teachers unions that were bankrupting the Garden State. Then came the whispers that the young governor might run for president. He didn’t, instead opting to serve his time as the loyal soldier, fundraising for other governors and galloping around New Hampshire for Gov. Mitt Romney. From early victories down there, the climb looked clear and his hopes were high. But the higher he climbed, the thinner the air.
At the national convention that year, he touted himself and cursed at Mr. Romney’s aides.
Clouds began to gather. And then the storm hit.
A devastating super storm crashed into his state, sending Mr. Christie into political survival mode, wherein he disowned the national campaign, physically embraced the opposition, and savaged Republicans in Congress who derailed a “relief” bill so corrupt that a flooded New York City’s own Wall Street Journal called it “a disgrace to the memory of the victims.” (Bedford 2014: The Myth Of Chris Christie Exposed)
It was for the people of New Jersey. And upward he climbed.
The following year was an election year for Republicans across his blue state, and also offered the popular governor the chance to nominate a Republican interim senator to get a head-start against his opponents. It cost Mr. Christie $24 million to make sure [crscore]Cory Booker[/crscore] didn’t chip into his sure-shot victory, but sure enough Mr. Christie reached into the state’s coffers and paid it– for the people of New Jersey.
State Republicans were demolished, but Mr. Christie rose triumphant. Still, his victory for the people of New Jersey didn’t stop longtime friends and lieutenants from creating “some traffic problems” for the Jerseyites living under the gadfly who had refused to go along with the program. Term-limits assured his team it was the final leg of his New Jersey ascent. All that remained was the summit. But he’d taken a misstep, and things began to go wrong.
You could tell New Jersey Republicans, Mr. Romney, Congress, libertarians, climate-change skeptics, social conservatives and Second-Amendment activists to shove off, it seems, but don’t mess with traffic. So when the man whose days in New Jersey are numbered reached high for the next gig, it became difficult to breathe. (Bedford 2015: There Isn’t A Chance Chris Christie Is Going To Win The Nomination Because Nobody Likes Him)
He’d trained for this moment, even undergoing a surgical procedure to look more appealing to the electorate. He’d camped in snowy New Hampshire with a contingent of New Jersey state troopers for months, clawing at the feet of Republicans above him, trying desperately to pull Sen. [crscore]Marco Rubio[/crscore] down a dark canyon, and crowing his service for the good people of New Jersey.
That Tuesday night, Mr. Christie lost in New Hampshire, just like anyone could have told him. It had been a long trek, and along the way he’d cannibalized every member of his party, used every oxygen tank, and reached the top. But the top wasn’t the Oval Office in Washington, D.C. he’d once dreamed of, it was a city in Texas.
There, in the winter sun, the champion of New Jersey stood in the shadow of Manhattan’s Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump– the man who tried to evict an old New Jersey widow to make room for a limousine parking lot for a soon-to-be-bankrupt New Jersey casino in a New Jersey city Mr. Trump would soon leave behind him.
There’s no way the journey would end behind Mr. Trump, Mr. Christie had promised his final, lonely backer, a newspaper publisher, two weeks earlier. Joe McQuaid had believed the governor.
Mr. Trump’s “fairytale” policies would never work, the governor had told The Daily Caller and a room full of supporters days prior. Those voters had probably believed him too.
Standing at the podium, Mr. Christie said he was “proud to be here to endorse Donald Trump”– the “fairytale” candidate he was hitching his White House appointment hopes to.
Some fairytales come true. But most don’t.