The real story on Chris Christie

     Reporter Matt Katz with N.J. Gov. Chris Christie at a Jersey Shore event in 2014. Katz has a new book about the governor .(Tim Larsen/New Jersey Governor's Office)

    Reporter Matt Katz with N.J. Gov. Chris Christie at a Jersey Shore event in 2014. Katz has a new book about the governor .(Tim Larsen/New Jersey Governor's Office)

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has teased, taunted, and berated WYNC reporter Matt Katz all over Jersey and now New Hampshire, once throwing a bottle of water at the bespectacled scribe. That’s just one of the nuggets you’ll get in Katz’s new book about Christie, “American Governor.”

    I was thinking when I spoke to Katz last week that I probably learned more in an hour with him than I did from a year’s worth of Sunday talk shows.

    You know what I’m talking about — those network shows where pundits who don’t really know much serve up rumors and wisdom they’ve picked up from political operatives.

    I’ve learned over the years that, if you want to learn something meaningful about a candidate for office, the best source is usually a good beat reporter who covered the candidate years before his or her hat was in the ring.

    Katz has covered Christie for five years, first for the Philadelphia Inquirer, then for WNYC, the New York public radio station. If you want to understand Christie, and have a good time doing it, read “American Governor.”

    If you don’t have time for the book just yet, listen to my interview with Katz today on Fresh Air.

    Katz takes you through Christie’s life and career — how he ran for student body president every year in high school and college; how he made a name for himself prosecuting corruption and, once in office, awarded contracts that smacked of cronyism; how he showed some serious governing and political skill, making alliances with Democratic power brokers so he could get things done as a Republican governor; and how he cultivated his image as a straight-talking politician by using a government staff to record his town hall meetings and send the best YouTube moments to a list of 2,500 people around the country, including 85 producers at Fox News.

    There’s plenty about Christie that’s impressive here, and plenty he and his people will hate.

    What’s striking is how smart, thorough, and fair-minded Katz is, which is why this book is your best source on whether Christie has presidential mettle.

    At the end of the interview, I ask Katz whether he likes the guv, and he answers.

    You can hear Fresh Air at 3 and 7 on WHYY-FM. If you’re listening outside the Philadelphia area, find a station here.

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