I have a theory about Chris Christie that will soon be tested. I think he has meant it all those times when he said he wasn’t ready to run for president. I disagree with him on a host of matters and think he’s way too sure of himself and plays the bully too often — and does it consciously to build his following on the right. But I also think he is an old-neighborhood New Jersey guy and has an instinctive sense that he can’t count on having all the love he enjoys now once he jumps into the race. Maybe nobody can resist having some of the richest and most influential people in the country tell you that you should be president. I just have a feeling that Christie has a street sense that protects him from falling for this stuff easily.
And while I can give many reasons for why I oppose Christie politically, one piece written about him moved me to think I might enjoy the guy if he were my friend. For those of you who haven’t read him, Harlan Coben is one of the great mystery writers of our moment. His Myron Bolitar series, starring a lawyer/sports agent whose basketball career gets cut short by an injury, is brilliant and at times very funny. I also like the way Coben approaches life, family, neighborhood and kids.
Coben is a liberal, but he explained why he likes Christie in very personal op-ed published in the New York Times shortly after Christie won election as New Jersey’s governor in 2009. Here are a few paragraphs:
Whenever a new kid showed up at school, Chris was the first to greet him. Watch video of Chris on the campaign trail — he still finds the person in the back corner, the ill-at-ease one, and shakes his hand, brings him into the fold. On election night, when I entered his hotel suite, I was that person. Because of some weird hate mail after a TV appearance — I made the mistake of admitting to Sean Hannity that I voted for Barack Obama — I decided not to publicly support either candidate, even backing out of a fund-raiser Chris and I were hosting together.
Chris didn’t look at this as a betrayal. He understood my problem. When I entered the hotel suite on election night, he saw that I felt awkward and, as he did so many years ago on that baseball field, my roly-poly friend rushed over and made me feel welcome.
Cue the big bearhug.
If Christie does run, I imagine his campaign will e-mail Coben’s piece around in a big way. Coben may be called in to testify on behalf of his friend’s character to groups that are skeptical about him, a class to which I belong. But there was something in Coben’s piece that made me think Christie can walk away from all this – and that he will. And if Christie does run, it won’t be the first time he proved a liberal wrong.