Chris Christie – the master of distraction

 Cartoon by Rob Tornoe

Cartoon by Rob Tornoe

This is commentary from political blogger and cartoonist Rob Tornoe.

Back in 2010, Chris Christie called Star-Ledger columnist Tom Moran “thin-skinned” following a question about the Governor’s confrontational tone. You see, Christie is a tough guy who says what he thinks, and if people can’t handle it, well then they’re just pathetic idiots who don’t deserve the time of day.

Christie has also claimed to have a very thick skin himself when it comes to insults, particularly jokes at the expense of his weight. It was only a few months ago that the donut-chomping Christie appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman and hammed it up to a national audience that loved the Governor’s self-depreciating humor.

So how can you explain Christie’s blow-up last week, claiming that his gubernatorial opponent, State Sen. Barbara Buono, made a fat joke at his expense? For the outspoken Christie, it was almost the equivalent of curling up in the corner and crying, “make it stop!”

Buono, commenting on the thankfully completed and arguably unsuccessful “Stronger than the Storm” ad campaign, was complaining about Christie’s starting role (which cost taxpayers an extra $2 million), and said, “I don’t know about you, but seeing Chris Christie frolicking on the beach is not going to drive me to go to the Jersey Shore.”

So was it a fat joke? I don’t think so. It certainly didn’t reach “Whale at the Wall” or “Who you calling an idiot, fatso” levels. Buono does know a bit about subtly, since she’s basically remained largely an unknown in a gubernatorial election dominated by Christie’s omnipresence. But I’m confident if her intention was to commit campaign suicide by going after Christie’s weight, her team would have found a more direct way of addressing it.

Like most things having to do with Christie these days, the Governor’s feigned indigence was nothing more than a cynical ploy to draw attention away from criticism over the failed “Stronger than the Storm” commercials, which did more for Christie’s reelection campaign and national profile than they did bringing tourists back to the shore.

It also exposed Buono as maybe a bit unprepared and certainly undermatched in her race for governor. Not only was she forced to defend her comments and deny mocking Christie’s weight (a dictionary definition of “frolicking” – really?), it completely overshadowed the roll-out of her proposals to overhaul the state’s education system, which a still fragile Christie quickly called “ridiculous.”

“He wants to talk about non-issues so he can deflect attention away from the fact that we have had the highest unemployment in the region in the last four years,” Buono said. “He’s the master of distraction.”

What? Sorry Barbara, I wasn’t paying attention. I was too busy watching Christie on TV in a luxury box with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Reince Priebus, the Chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Christie – a Cowboys fan? And talking to Reince Priebus – does this mean he’s really going to run for president in 2016? Two more perfect distractions that will keep voters talking straight into next year, and coincidentally enough, right through November’s election.


Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at, and follow him on twitter @RobTornoe.

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