By Brent Budowsky - 01/10/13 04:22 PM EST
The most interesting political leader in America, and possibly the most important Republican since Ronald Reagan, is Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey. Christie has a powerful and even Churchillian message for his party that is supported by a huge majority of his constituents and is resonating with a growing number of voters throughout our country.
The Republican Party today is a tale of two cities. On Wednesday Matt Drudge, the mother of GOP media megaphones, bannered a story about the Obama policy on guns with pictures of Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin, while Chris Christie, the de facto leader of the GOP that lasted from Abe Lincoln to Bob Dole, gave thoughtful interviews suggesting that the best policy to stem violence includes action that involves guns, mental health and restraint from the entertainment and video-game industries. I wholeheartedly agree with Christie.
The jury of presidential seriousness will ultimately return for Chris Christie. So far Christie is a contender for the Churchillian mantle, warning his party, which sought to delegitimize and demonize President Obama but has instead delegitimized and demonized itself with voters, and has become a party in danger of imploding from a new McCarthyism of Republicans working to delegitimize, demonize and destroy each other in a political reign of terror of threatened primaries against the very Republicans most likely to win national elections.
Barely a day goes by without Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who fears a Republican primary, or Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who fears a Republican primary and should know better, threatening to derail an Obama appointee or (in Cornyn's case) force a government shutdown, which would grievously harm Cornyn's Texas constituents in the military.
The golden opportunity for Christie, who understands that pandering to extremism loses elections, would be to employ his popularity in the service of Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment, and give backbone and support to reasonable Republicans fearing rightist primaries that misuse the Reagan name, to make a mockery of the Reagan 11th Commandment, by attempting to destroy Republicans Reagan would have embraced.
The Churchillian message of Christie is that those elected to govern should govern, that Americans are tired of the demeaning that is destroying our public life, and that principled conservatism can coexist with principled governance through reasonable compromise based on the civility and respect that have largely disappeared from American public life.
I am a Kennedy Democrat who supports Hillary Clinton for president in 2016 but offers high praise here for a New Jersey Republican governor who would be her most formidable opponent, and for Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), who represents my hometown in New York that has been extremely hard-hit by Hurricane Sandy. King and his staff, like President Obama and Gov. Christie, have all done outstanding work helping their constituents, including my senior-citizen mother and my brother in our Democratic family, battle the cruel pain of Sandy that continues today.
My mother still cannot move back into the house she lived in for more than half a century. The hardship and pain she and many others endure today is beyond description. Instead of frightening my mother into calling me about why Republicans in the last Congress coldly and cruelly refused to provide disaster relief, violating every tradition of American history that disaster relief should be above politics, perhaps Speaker Boehner should call my mother to understand the cruel pain he makes more cruel and more painful.
Comparing anyone to Winston Churchill is, as they say, crapping in the tall cotton. It is far too early to draw conclusions about Chris Christie, but he is saying some things that need to be said and trying to do some things that need to be done. Hope springs eternal in the land of the free and the home of the brave, so for now I tip my hat.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.