So, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) set off from his regular duties in the Garden State last year full of hopes and dreams about the White House.
This, Christie and his campaign advisers seemed to think for what are not at all clear reasons, was Christie's year. On Feb. 10, Christie dropped his White House bid, acknowledging that it was a futile pursuit. He briefly came home to New Jersey to, many people presumed, serve, govern, pontificate and continue legislative and legal battle with lawmakers in that state. There were, after all, many, many months between now and the end of his final term in 2017. New Jersey term limits wouldn't allow him to run again. So presumably there was some kind of future that Christie was going to have to figure out. And having made quite a show of his tough-talking prosecutor skills on various debate stages during his time in the 2016 presidential race, there may have been some options for Christie in Washington if the next administration is a Republican one.
Or, that is what most people inside and outside of New Jersey thought until last week. And then Christie endorsed GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump. Now, the editorial boards of six New Jersey newspapers decided they have really and truly had enough.
Christie, the editorial boards said, has not just abandoned New Jersey to launch a presidential run and peruse a not-at-all-uncommon set of ambitions for governors; he had got the hell out of Jersey with all kinds of unanswered and pending questions back home. On top of that, Christie was not just out of New Jersey for all or part of 261 days last year, New Jersey footed some of the bill, the editorial boards wrote. Then, when the never-clear path to a Christie GOP nomination failed to materialize, Christie dropped out, came home for a bit and popped up in Texas to endorse Trump.
Trump, we would remind you, is a man that Christie repeatedly described as insufficiently qualified and temperamentally ill-suited for the presidency. That's what Christie said, again and again, during his own presidential bid. But once his direct shot at the White House was clearly over, Christie was ready to shake Trump's hand, slap his back and help his most unorthodox campaign along?
In Jersey, those editorial boards were like, yeah, right.
Here's a taste of what they wrote:
What an embarrassment. What an utter disgrace.
We’re fed up with Gov. Chris Christie’s arrogance.
We’re fed up with his opportunism.
We’re fed up with his hypocrisy.
We’re fed up with his sarcasm.
We’re fed up with his long neglect of the state to pursue his own selfish agenda.
We’re disgusted with his endorsement of Donald Trump after he spent months on the campaign trail trashing him, calling him unqualified by temperament and experience to be president.
And we’re fed up with his continuing travel out of state on New Jersey’s dime, stumping for Trump, after finally abandoning his own presidential campaign.
For the good of the state, it’s time for Christie to do his long-neglected constituents a favor and resign as governor. If he refuses, citizens should initiate a recall effort.
There really do appear to be only two possible explanations for Christie's Trump transformation. You have, most likely, heard tale of both theories. The first is that Christie was so enraged by what he considered a condescending phone call from the younger -- and Christie believes less substantive -- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), assuring Christie that the New Jersey governor had a bright career ahead of him in politics. Word on the street is that was supposed to be a prelude to an ask for an endorsement, which an offended Christie quickly shut down then endorsed Trump in an act of vindictive rage.
The other theory is that Christie, driven by a kind of blind and utterly unprincipled ambition, decided that he might be able to get something out of Trump that he could get from no other Republican still in the presidential race, if he just gave Trump his support. What might that be?
Trump said a few days prior, after all, that his vice presidential pick would be a "political person." Maybe attorney general, even? The slot that Republicans are trying to keep open on the Supreme Court. What really, was Christie thinking?
Whatever it was, Christie clearly underestimated just how many people would be willing to speculate out in open about both theories of motivation and offer sharp, unequivocal rebukes. Many, many rebukes. You see the start of that sunset in the picture up above. It's lovely. And it may also be a fitting metaphor for Christie's political career.
You see, those editorial boards had more to say. Apparently, Christie had the temerity to spend time on the campaign trail with Trump after the endorsement and then come back to New Jersey in time for a Monday press conference. Once there, Christie out and out told reporters he would not take or answer any questions about anything besides a New Jersey judicial nomination because “I don’t want to.” Yes. That's what the man said.
Now, even whatever orange-slice of the Republican electorate was willing to back Christie and likes his ideas really has to wonder: Was the tough-talking, accountability-and-experience-matter Christie for president brand really just that -- branding? Was it just something Christie and a cabinet of consultants shaped out of the abrasive for no good reason, autocratic, unscrupulous man who had been running New Jersey until now?
Whatever the answer, there will never, ever be a time again in America where a story of more than 500 words about Christie will fail to make mention that time he ran for president, stuck New Jersey with some of the costs, sneered when a natural disaster made a lot of people expect him to at least come show his face, dropped out with very little to show for the whole ordeal and then became the guy who lent legitimacy to Donald Trump.
And that is a remarkable thing for a man with a political career which just four years ago more than a few people thought would end in the White House.