LOS ANGELES, June 5, 2013 — New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently had lap band surgery for health reasons. He may wish to go back and have a more delicate procedure to remove the splinters from his backside. He accumulated them from sitting on the fence, and now has acquired more of them.
The recent death of Senator Frank Lautenberg created an opening in the upper chamber and an opportunity for Republicans. Democrats hold a 52 to 48 majority.
Governor Christie could have simply appointed a Republican, who would have eighteen months to build a record before standing for election in November of 2014 for a full six year term. With 2014 expected to be a Republican year, Christie could have given the GOP eight years of Republican votes.
Instead Christie did what he has done since 2009; he confounded everybody.
The best conservatives can hope for in New Jersey is to elect moderate Republicans. Along came Chris Christie. Despite the fact that he is not conservative, Christie became a darling of the right due to his blunt speaking style. His YouTube videos enthralled conservatives from Rush Limbaugh to Ann Coulter, and have been described as “political pornography” for the right. When he took on overpaid schoolteachers, conservatives cheered. His finest moment came in 2011 when he asked President Obama, “What the hell are we paying you for?”
His Reagan Library speech that year had people begging him to run for president in 2012. After fueling speculation as long as possible, Christie fell in line behind Governor Mitt Romney.
Everything changed at the 2012 Republican Convention. Christie’s speech was panned by some Republicans as too much Christie, not enough Romney. Christie was accused of “pulling his punches” against Obama.
One week before the election, polls had Romney and Obama neck-and-neck. Then Hurricane Sandy devastated New Jersey. Obama came to New Jersey and was greeted by Christie with a bear hug. Christie claimed Obama was doing an “excellent job” with recovery assistance. (People in Staten Island would disagree.) This display of bipartisanship was wind in Obama’s reelection sails.
Christie supporters insist that his appeal comes from being “above politics,” but perhaps he has made very shrewd calculations with political considerations firmly in mind. “Sabotage” may overstate his actions towards Romney, but Christie had his eyes on his own November 2013 race.
Even after Obama was reelected, his “bromance” with Christie continued. They toured the Jersey Shore together and played the football toss. Christie won a stuffed animal for the president last week. The darling of the right was now the darling of Democrats, who saw him as a model of bipartisanship. The man who won a squeaker in 2009 is now coasting to reelection with over 70 percent approval. Yet everything is fleeting, and Christie is taking no chances.
The problem is he has reached a fork in the road, and he cannot, to follow the advice of the late Yogi Berra, just “take it.” Christie needs to move to the center and embrace Democrats for his 2013 reelection. He then needs to move back to the right if he wants the 2016 presidential nomination. His best quality is his perceived authenticity, and zig-zagging does not bolster that credential.
That is why even in death, staunch liberal Democrat Lautenberg laughed last. He has Christie boxed into a corner. The haymaker came, and Christie blinked.
He eschewed the GOP control route and ordered a special election. After a primary, the general special election will be October 16th. That is three weeks before his own election. He could have saved taxpayers money and had both elections on the same day. However, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a highly popular Democrat who happens to be black, is expected to win easily.
Booker thought of challenging Christie for the governor’s mansion, which would have been a clash of titans. Booker blinked, but Christie dodged a fight for his political life. This was the biggest race that never happened since New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani declined to run against Hillary Clinton for that state’s Senate seat a decade ago. By having Booker face election three weeks earlier, it prevents a tidal wave of Democrats from possibly voting Christie out of office.
Tough guy Christie did not want to take on Booker. He put political survival front and center, which makes him human.
He still has to appoint somebody in the interim, who will have the job for about 23 working days. He could select a placeholder who will not run for the full term. He could cross party lines and select a Democrat.
What Christie has yet to figure out is that while he may breeze to reelection, he will face only long-term pain for playing Hamlet. If he runs for president, Democrats now embracing him will quickly declare him a “right-wing extremist.” Obama will abandon him in a heartbeat. Those on the right who dislike Obama will be angered at the initial closeness between Obama and Christie. Those against Christie on the left will hate him for being a Republican. Christie will have been too cute by half, and lose everybody.
If Obama were in Christie’s position, he would say “I won,” appoint a hard leftist, and be done with it. Obama would be destructive but decisive.
Christie may throw a football better than Obama, but in this political situation, Christie may end up as just another Republican version of Charlie Brown. The football will be pulled away from him, and his attempts to win over everybody will backfire.
Chris Christie became the best of the best by being decisive. Turning into Hamlet could be his undoing. Or to quote Mr. Miyagi’s wise words for Daniel-son in the Karate Kid on crossing the street, “Left side, safe. Right side, safe. Middle, get squished like grape.”
The only thing more painful is removing splinters from one’s backside. Time to get off the fence, Governor Christie.
Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a politically conservative columnist, blogger, author, public speaker, satirist and comedian. Eric is the author of the book trilogy “Ideological Bigotry, “Ideological Violence,” and “Ideological Idiocy.”
Eric is 100% alcohol, tobacco, drug, and liberalism free. Follow Eric on Twitter @TYGRRRREXPRESS
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