The following essay was written by Mitchell Robinson and is cross-posted on his most-excellent blog at MitchellRobinson.net. Robinson is associate professor and chair of music education, and coordinator of the music student teaching program at Michigan State University. Follow Mitchell on Twitter at @mrobmsu. His essay is reposted here with permission.
The news was shocking in its incongruence and rapidity: failed presidential candidate and serial Rubio attacker, Chris Christie, was endorsing failed strip club owner and serial bankruptcy artist, Donald Trump. To careful observers, this was a stunning turn of events from just a few weeks ago, when Mr. Christie had said the following about his new BFF, as reported by the Washington Post:
- Gov. Chris Christie on Monday said Donald Trump’s call for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” in the wake of the San Bernardino terror attack is “ridiculous,” deriding it as “the kind of thing that people say when they have no experience and don’t know what they’re talking about.”
- “…there are folks in this race who don’t care about what the law says because they’re used to being able to just fire people indiscriminately on television,” said Christie, referencing Trump’s decade-long stint on NBC’s reality television competition, “The Apprentice.”
- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie strongly refuted Donald Trump’s claim that thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheered after the 9/11 terror attacks, claiming that it simply “didn’t happen.” “It didn’t happen and the fact is, people can say anything, but the facts are the facts, and that didn’t happen in New Jersey that day and hasn’t happened since,” Christie told reporters on Monday at a campaign stop in New Hampshire.
- Christie…was denying Trump’s ability to command the nation’s military. “We are not electing an entertainer-in-chief. Showmanship is fun, but it’s not the type of leadership that will truly change America,” Christie said on the campus of Saint Anselm College in Goffstown, New Hampshire. “If we’re going to turn our frustration and anger with the D.C. insiders and the politicians of yesterday and the carnival barkers of today into something that will actually change Americans’ lives, then we must elect someone who has been tested, someone with proven experience.”
- At a town hall meeting in Portsmouth, N.H., Mr. Christie expressed disbelief at Mr. Trump’s comment Saturday that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and lose no support in the 2016 campaign. “It’s pretty amazing to say it, isn’t it?” Mr. Christie asked. Briefly slipping into an impression of Mr. Trump — “We’re stupid,” he deadpanned in a throaty baritone — Mr. Christie said he empathized with voters who want to “burn Washington down.” “But who’s going to rebuild it once it gets burned down?” Mr. Christie said. “That’s what you’ve got to think about.” By nominating the wrong candidate, he continued, “We could wind up turning over the White House to Hillary Clinton for four more years.” That prospect, he said, would be “like the eight years we’ve just had, except worse.”
How, one might ask, does a seasoned political operative like Mr. Christie, make such an abrupt idealogical pivot? From savaging Mr. Trump as a rude, crude, political lightweight, whose arrogance and ignorance about policy, foreign affairs, and…well…anything, really, could prove not only troubling, but downright dangerous should his quixotic quest for the presidency actually turn out to be successful, to standing beside–or behind–him on a hastily constructed stage.
If you’re asking yourself the same question, you’re not alone. In a breaking of the ranks that can only be described as stunning, Meg Whitman, Mr. Christie’s former campaign finance chair, issued the following statement on this head-scratcher of an endorsement:
“Chris Christie’s endorsement of Donald Trump is an astonishing display of political opportunism. Donald Trump is unfit to be President. He is a dishonest demagogue who plays to our worst fears. Trump would take America on a dangerous journey. Christie knows all that and indicated as much many times publicly. The Governor is mistaken if he believes he can now count on my support and I call on Christie’s donors and supporters to reject the Governor and Donald Trump outright. I believe they will. For some of us, principle and country still matter.”
For me, Ms. Whitman’s words only provoke more questions…
- How do you go from endorsing Mitt Romney to endorsing Donald Trump? I may not have always agreed with Mr. Romney on many–OK, any–of his political or social positions, but I always thought he was a good, kind man, who sincerely believed that in the inherent “goodness” of his policy positions. He was, after all, the architect of “Romneycare,” which despite his Republican colleagues’ disavowals, was pretty much the blueprint that President Obama followed in the rolling out of Obamacare, his signature health care initiative.
Mr. Trump, on the other hand, has not shown a shred of evidence that he is a good, or kind, person. Nearly every word out of his mouth is a racial, ethnic or gender based slur, a threat, or an insult directed at one of his opponents, colleagues or audience members at one of the debates. He seems constitutionally unsuited for public office of any kind, and yet here he sits on top of the Republican candidate heap.
- What does it say about your belief system, moral compass and ethical core if you can go from supporting Mitt Romney for President to endorsing The Donald? Mr. Christie’s support for Mr. Trump, on the heels of his scathing indictments from just a week earlier, unbelievably say more about him than they do about Mr. Trump–and they don’t leave a favorable impression. Even Mr. Christie’s former political allies, such as Ms. Whitman, see the endorsement as, at best, nothing more than a cynical ploy to remain nationally relevant–and at worst, as craven political and personal opportunism. I suspect that the true motivation for Mr. Christie here is his increasing realization that, due to his scandal-ridden history (see: BridgeGate, ExpenseAccountGate, HurricaneSandyGate, TeacherBullyGate, PortAuthorityGate, PensionGate, NewarkSchoolsGate, and many others), Mr. Christie understands that his political future in New Jersey is now kaput, and his only chance at not fading into the political woodwork is this last gasp, Hail Mary effort to cling to whatever remains of his relevancy.
The spectacle of the once-proud “law and order” US Attorney, now turned surrogate attacker for the most dishonest, shadiest political character in our nation’s history, is one that is rife with irony.
And the more he tries to explain or rationalize it, the sadder and more pathetic his legacy becomes.
It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
Keep talking, Chris.