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Regional Caricatures

Chris Christie is no Tom Menino.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Aw, too bad: I liked Chris Christie.

Well, that is, I found him likable enough.

Maybe because he’s fat. It makes him seem like a regular guy. For a pol.

And now, caught up in accusations that he and his administration abused power for craven political purposes—shutting down traffic to punish the Democrat mayor of Fort Lee, N. J.—he looks little a portly little kid getting dragged to the principal’s office. Likable or not, it’s hardly a look befitting the governor of one of the original 13 states of the United States of America.

But that’s Christie’s brand, his facade: the emotive, tough-talking, doughnut-eating Jersey boy, happy to be a beefy buffoon on any TV show that’ll have him. Sadly, that brand may be enough to get him through this scandal.

Like Mayor Tom Menino in Boston, who left office last week after 20 years of nearly-unchallenged incumbency, Christie is pol who played successfully against type. Like Menino, he’s also a regional caricature.

Menino often got by acting like a rube from “Hyde Pahk.” Known as “Mumbles Menino,” he had crisper diction in private than he did in front of a camera.

I’ve never met Christie, but I suspect that, as chastened and childlike as he looks on camera right now, his private affect is much different. His mask apparently hid ruthlessness, obscured ethical corruption.

Is this how he managed to rise, unlikely as it seems, not just within his state’s political ranks but to the top rung of the national Republican Party?

Of course, Tom Menino leaves office with no stains and barely a bump or bruise, a remarkable feat in a city legendary for its hardball politics, tribalism and culture of corruption. Menino will be remembered as a great mayor, a great politician, a great hands-on leader who showed Boston the way in good times and bad. His humble manner, a ruse mostly, endears him to us all the more.

Christie’s legacy is forever tarnished. While no one can be surprised by the pettiness of his political tactics, the level of risk he and his administration took in living up to the darker New Jersey stereotypes is astonishing. It would have been easier to slip a bloody horse head into Mark Sokolich’s bed.

Ah, big deal? Not everybody can be a Tom Menino?

True, but Christie’s probable rehabilitation—and even Democrat schemers like David Axelrod already predict he “lives to fight another day”—will only show us how broken our system has become.

I don’t care about the damage Christie has done to himself. For the sake of the rest of us, he should be done in politics.•

Aw, too bad: I liked Chris Christie.

Well, that is, I found him likable enough.

Maybe because he’s fat. It makes him seem like a regular guy. For a pol.

And now, caught up in accusations that he and his administration abused power for craven political purposes—shutting down traffic to punish the Democrat mayor of Fort Lee, N. J.—he looks little a portly little kid getting dragged to the principal’s office. Likable or not, it’s hardly a look befitting the governor of one of the original 13 states of the United States of America.

But that’s Christie’s brand, his facade: the emotive, tough-talking, doughnut-eating Jersey boy, happy to be a beefy buffoon on any TV show that’ll have him. Sadly, that brand may be enough to get him through this scandal.

Like Mayor Tom Menino in Boston, who left office last week after 20 years of nearly-unchallenged incumbency, Christie is pol who played successfully against type. Like Menino, he’s also a regional caricature.

Menino often got by acting like a rube from “Hyde Pahk.” Known as “Mumbles Menino,” he had crisper diction in private than he did in front of a camera.

I’ve never met Christie, but I suspect that, as chastened and childlike as he looks on camera right now, his private affect is much different. His mask apparently hid ruthlessness, obscured ethical corruption.

Is this how he managed to rise, unlikely as it seems, not just within his state’s political ranks but to the top rung of the national Republican Party?

Of course, Tom Menino leaves office with no stains and barely a bump or bruise, a remarkable feat in a city legendary for its hardball politics, tribalism and culture of corruption. Menino will be remembered as a great mayor, a great politician, a great hands-on leader who showed Boston the way in good times and bad. His humble manner, a ruse mostly, endears him to us all the more.

Christie’s legacy is forever tarnished. While no one can be surprised by the pettiness of his political tactics, the level of risk he and his administration took in living up to the darker New Jersey stereotypes is astonishing. It would have been easier to slip a bloody horse head into Mark Sokolich’s bed.

Ah, big deal? Not everybody can be a Tom Menino?

True, but Christie’s probable rehabilitation—and even Democrat schemers like David Axelrod already predict he “lives to fight another day”—will only show us how broken our system has become.

I don’t care about the damage Christie has done to himself. For the sake of the rest of us, he should be done in politics.•

© 2014 The Valley Advocate