Well, if you have not read it or seen it by now, here is a link to both the transcript and the video
of the Chris Christie speech at the Reagan Library two nights ago.
Most of the commentary about it can be characterized as one of two things: speculation or begging. Although I am not inclined to think there is a lot of need for the former, I cannot avoid it if I am to say anything intelligible about the substance of Christie's fine and effective remarks. I absolutely will not engage in the latter. But more about that later.
Here's what I think: It is entirely possible that Chris Christie misread his moment. I think he was sincere when he said that he did not mean to run for President and I think his reason for not running--at least, initially--had partly to do with his own personal concern with being "ready," but it had mainly to do with a suspicion that no Republican was likely to beat Obama in 2012. He thought he could and should wait. He was wrong on both counts.
Consider his long (and, yes, very good) reflections on Obama's 2004 Democrat Convention speech. Everybody who knew anything about politics in 2004 knew that watching Obama warming up for Kerry brought on feelings reminiscent of those you get when the previews at the movies look better than the movie you came to see. That was as close as Obama ever got to a Reagan moment. And Christie was
at the Reagan Library, so he can be forgiven if visions of "A Time for Choosing" were dancing in his head. I think Christie meant to do something like that at the Reagan Library or, perhaps, to give us a taste of what he must mean to do at our coming convention whether or not he is the candidate. I think that explains why this 2004 speech of Obama's was so close to the forefront of Christie's mind; that, and it is a good hook for explaining to people, who once trusted in Obama, the ways in which their original opinion is wrong. Without question, Christie did that well.
But this brings me to the second part of my thoughts about Christie's speech. If he's not running, why is he waxing eloquent on Presidential politics in this way? Well, it must fry him to watch these debates, right? He's sitting there watching these guys do it in ways that seem, to him, wrong. It's killing him. Maybe he thought he could at least offer a tutorial to the GOP candidates. "Watch me. This is how it's done." And his substance was good. What he said about compromise (contra Rush and others who, though they mean well, seem to be suffering post traumatic stress disorder whenever they hear that word) was good.
But the thing about this speech is that, as with most pros who step in to demonstrate skills to talent that is already playing at the top of its game, Christie is only succeeding in showing the rest of them up. It's not going to do anyone any good for him to continue in this mode.
"Maybe showing them up is all part of his plan?" suggest some prognosticators who, like me, don't see much point in all of this talk if the man doesn't mean to run. So, therefore, he must mean to do it. Well, if that is the case, here's what the rest of me is saying: I have loved Chris Christie for a long time. And I long, just as much as the next citizen, to hear someone come and speak simple truths to power with good effect and without cringing. But if he is planning like that, to hell with him. No, really. This is becoming unseemly. He may be the best guy (though I don't think that is, by any means, a settled matter) but he ain't the only guy. Please.
And here's something else. What is this with the begging of this guy to run
? This suggestion that he must do it? I don't like it. I thought his answer to the (sincere, but sad) woman who was begging him to run was good, respectful and, even, sweet. But it bothers me to see Americans so desperate for one man to run for the Presidency. There is something weak and pathetic about it, I am sorry to say. Have some pride. Americans don't beg anyone to be their boss. It reminds me, in a way, of the scheming that went on to get George Washington to declare himself emperor . . . maybe without the Washington.
Perhaps it is unfortunate that Chris Christie's moment has passed and that he seems to have made the wrong call. But if he is a man of integrity, and I think he is, he can use this opportunity to remind Americans that this is their
country. No one man is so essential, so wise, or so wonderful that he must be deign to be their king as if he were part of some Platonic dialogue writ large. Of course his consent in the thing matters. This is a regime built on the principle! Enough, already. There is serious work to do and Chris Christie will best contribute to that effort when he makes it clear that he means to support someone else
for the Presidency this go around. If, on the other hand, he means to jump in, he had better do it quick. And, if he does that, there's no getting around the fact that he is going to have a lot of explaining to do and he should not be surprised if a lot of voters, instead of thinking that he has finally lived up to his duty, consider that he's not really as much a man of his word as they once thought he was.