Chris Christie today has to ask himself exactly what it was that pushed such a collection of New York billionaires, with the help of Henry Kissinger and calls to the missus from Barbara Bush, to rush him to the front lines of conservative American politics so few winters ago. He was no doubt their anti-Mitt Romney.
Not that these folks could be said to be prejudiced against Mormons — far be it. But indeed, Romney was not “one of them.” He was rich but went alone; he was from the East and Harvard, but not really. He was smart, and although he bantered and flip-flopped in debate, in his work and personality he was honorable to the core and beyond reproach.
The governor’s rapid rise was due to one fact: He is fat. He's also jolly, a jolly fat, like Santa. And he has tagged along with Jeb Bush, who would trail behind him to the presidency to fulfill a 16-year Bush Reconstruction, it brought on subliminal theatrics, which harkens back to an earlier day of real and original talent, a day that most conservatives still live in. Like Abbot and Costello: The archetypal “straight man" is Bush with Kissinger, Karl Rove, the Weekly Standard, the New York billionaires following him across the stage like the shadows in Bunraku theater. And the ever jolly and entertaining Christie “front man" provides the box office draw.
A Brit commentator suggested that Christie brought to mind Tony Soprano, much as Ronald Reagan brought to mind John Wayne. These archetypes bring us back to ourselves. "The Sopranos" was a hidden masterpiece, on the surface about crime bosses in broken New Jersey but beneath revealing honor in exile. And it all worked because Christie in his most interesting photogenic way was a happy and good man to the camera; his Tony Soprano was without the overtones of Jersey crime bosses, returning the honor and responsibility beneath, coming with a sword to cut away the inauthentic and institutional rot.
It was a great image and would still make a nice made-for-TV movie. But like things real in the world, it depended on what was underneath. And at the core, New Jersey is a broken, corrupt and failed state. Christie as much as any other bears responsibility. When seen in the light, the jovial fat man instead brings a chill.
This morning, The Washington Post front page has a picture of Christie looking hard at the camera in a 1994 campaign pitch. He was maybe 150 pounds lighter. It is impossible to see him there as the jovial sidekick of Jeb Bush in a happy-face 1950s Republican reenactment. Instead, he seems reclusive and dangerous, a vengeful Sylvester Stallone in ”First Blood.”
The press has abandoned him. Advice to Christie: Keep the weight on.