Chris Christie, reduced to pandering

    Chris Christie

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie leaves the Capitol in Washington in this Nov. 17, 2014 file photo (J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo)

    How sad it was yesterday to see Chris Christie in pander mode, reciting right-wing cliches in a bid to woo grassroots conservatives.

    A year ago, when he was drawing strong support from Democrats and independents, Christie didn’t need to bloviate in front of The Base. He wasn’t even invited to the ’13 Conservative Political Action Conference – but it didn’t matter because he owned the “electability” brand. Today, however, it’s a different story. Now that his crossover support has crashed in the wake of his Jersey scandals, he has to start from scratch and make nice to the right. Because unless conservatives buck him up politically during this long scandal season, he is roadkill.

    So how fortuitous it was that CPAC invited him to speak this year. And he made the most of the opportunity, by serving up red meat and coaxing the crowd to gnaw along. Consider, for instance, this core message:

    “The media” is out to get us!

    Ah yes, that tiresome old saw. Christie said, “We have to stop letting the media decide who we are and what we are and what we stand for….We have to take these guys on directly….What we need to start saying is, we’re not going to put up any longer with them defining who we are.”

    What better way to romance conservatives than to bond over knee-jerk hatred of “the media”? If they all have the same enemy, then surely Christie and conservatives must be friends, yes?  Plus, his subliminal message is that the whole scandal mess in Jersey is just a media confection. Since “the media” is always out to get conservatives, then of course it makes sense that “the media” is out to get him too. (Yeah, right. Tell it to the US. attorney.)

    Naturally, the CPACers clapped their appreciation. They may well be unaware that Christie has uttered all kinds of blasphemies in the recent past – like when he said that “climate change is real…human activity plays a role in these changes,” and when he said that immigrants deserve “a common-sense path to citizenship,” and when he lauded “common-sense” gun control – but there’s nothing like a good media-bashing to erase the slate.

    What’s amusing, of course, is that this particular media-basher was, until very recently, a dazzling media darling, catapulted to national renown by some of the very same outlets (like MSNBC’s Morning Joe) that he now assails. But more amusing, surely, was his boilerplate complaint that “the media” is conspiratorally busy “defining who we are.”

    The thing is, it wasn’t MSNBC or The New York Times that recently described the Republican party as “driving around in circles in an ideological cul de sac.” It wasn’t The Huffington Post or The Washington Post that described the Republican party as being “expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people.” Those quotes appear in the Republican National Committee’s autopsy report on the 2102 election.

    Yup, that’s the GOP talking about itself in the lengthy March ’13 document that laments the party’s abiding failures to connect with Hispanics, young people, and women. (And if you wonder whether conservatives got the message, just check out today’s laugher: Note the boffo turnout for CPAC’s panel on minority outreach.)

    Christie is smart enough to know that it’s nuts to attack the messenger, that in fact Republicans deserve the blame for a message tailored to older white guys. But, alas, these days he can’t afford to take the high road and tout himself as the electable centrist. That was so last year.

    The current ABC News-Washington Post poll says that, among Republicans, 30 percent say they definitely wouldn’t vote for Christie in a presidential primary – the highest thumbs-down share for any prospective GOP candidate. He can’t mend fences with Democrats and independents (if that’s even still possible) unless he first quells the hostility in his own party. But what a shame that he has to slum for conservative support by recycling rhetoric aimed at the lowest common denominator.

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1


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