Chris Christie’s Vanity Problem

The scandals swirling around the New Jersey governor have a unifying theme: an obsession with self-image.

A giant screen shows Chris Christie at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, Florida, on August 28, 2012 during the Republican National Convention.
National Journal
Matt Berman
Jan. 13, 2014, 7:23 a.m.

New Jer­sey Gov­ernor Chris Christie is really in­to New Jer­sey Gov­ernor Chris Christie.

At least that’s the im­pres­sion you get when you look at the latest scan­dal em­broil­ing the gov­ernor: The feds are in­vest­ig­at­ing his ad­min­is­tra­tion for spend­ing mil­lions of ex­tra tax­pay­er dol­lars on a post-Hur­ricane Sandy tour­ism ad cam­paign that — un­like a com­pet­ing, cheap­er op­tion — fea­tured him and his fam­ily.

You also get that idea when you look at the George Wash­ing­ton Bridge scan­dal, wherein the Demo­crat­ic may­or of Fort Lee, N.J., was seem­ingly pun­ished by the Christie ad­min­is­tra­tion for not en­dors­ing the gov­ernor for reelec­tion. That en­dorse­ment would have done vir­tu­ally noth­ing to im­pact Christie’s odds of win­ning his reelec­tion (which were al­ways high), but it would have mar­gin­ally ad­ded to Christie’s bi­par­tis­an cre­den­tials.

There is, right now, no evid­ence dir­ectly ty­ing Chris Christie to either of those de­cisions. But, in con­cert with his past, it’s in­creas­ingly easy to get the idea that the New Jer­sey gov­ernor puts a high premi­um on self-pro­mo­tion, even when it comes at an ob­vi­ous cost.

This, after all, is the same guy who threatened to drop the f-word on live, prime-time TV dur­ing the 2012 Re­pub­lic­an Na­tion­al Con­ven­tion if con­ven­tion or­gan­izers cut short his three-minute in­tro­duc­tion video. The video ran.

It’s also the same guy who is fol­lowed al­most every­where by an aide with a video cam­era, whose job is to catch every mo­ment where the gov­ernor goes off on someone to make sure the clip can be blas­ted out on You­Tube.

It’s the guy who turned a fleece, which he wore throughout his gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse to Sandy, in­to a na­tion­al news story.

Even if Christie isn’t dir­ectly im­plic­ated in the George Wash­ing­ton Bridge or ad scan­dals, at a min­im­um they leave the im­pres­sion that Christie’s staff is fiercly pro­tect­ive of the gov­ernor’s im­age. Why else would a top aide work to cause a traffic jam in ap­par­ent re­tali­ation for a Demo­crat­ic may­or not en­dors­ing the gov­ernor? The same ques­tion could be asked by fed­er­al in­vest­ig­at­ors look­ing in­to the Sandy tour­ism ad, where the head of the pan­el in charge of se­lect­ing the mar­ket­ing firm was a former aide to Christie, and had once re­ceived a $46,000 loan from him.

By no means is Christie the first politi­cian to ever be ob­sessed with and pro­tect­ive of his self-im­age (see our cur­rent pres­id­ent). But the lengths his ad­min­is­tra­tion has gone to are, at best, unique. Now, that care­fully whittled bi­par­tis­an, an­tipoliti­cian im­age is ser­i­ously dam­aged. And as the gov­ernor weighs a 2016 pres­id­en­tial run, he’s got at least one already de­clared op­pon­ent: a per­cep­tion of self-de­feat­ing nar­ciss­ism.

What We're Following See More »
BIG CHANGE FROM WHEN HE SELF-FINANCED
Trump Enriching His Businesses with Donor Money
6 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Donald Trump "nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign." A campaign spokesman "said the increased office space was needed to accommodate an anticipated increase in employees," but the campaign's paid staff has actually dipped by about 25 since March. The campaign has also paid his golf courses and restaurants about $260,000 since mid-May.

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Variety Looks at How Michelle Obama Has Leveraged Pop Culture
7 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

“My view is, first you get them to laugh, then you get them to listen," says Michelle Obama in a new profile in Variety. "So I’m always game for a good joke, and I’m not so formal in this role. There’s very little that we can’t do that people wouldn’t appreciate.” According to writer Ted Johnson, Mrs. Obama has leveraged the power of pop culture far beyond her predecessors. "Where are the people?" she asks. "Well, they’re not reading the op-ed pieces in the major newspapers. They’re not watching Sunday morning news talk shows. They’re doing what most people are doing: They are watching TV.”

Source:
RUSSIAN HACKERS LIKELY BEHIND THE ATTACKS
New York Times, Other News Organizations Hacked
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The FBI and other US security agencies are currently investigating a series of computer breaches found within The New York Times and other news organizations. It is expected that the hacks were carried out by individuals working for Russian intelligence. It is believed that these cyber attacks are part of a "broader series of hacks that also have focused on Democratic Party organizations, the officials said."

Source:
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY STUDENTS PETITIONED
NLRB: Graduate Students Can Unionize
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS

In a 3-1 decision, the National Labor Relations Board ruled in favor of Columbia University graduate students, granting them the legal right to unionize. The petition was brought by a number of teaching assistants enrolled in graduate school. This decision could pave the way for thousands of new union members, depending on if students at other schools nationwide wish to join unions. A number of universities spoke out in opposition to this possibility, saying injecting collective bargaining into graduate school could create a host of difficulties.

Source:
DIFFERENT KIND OF CONVENTION BOUNCE
Cruz Approval Ratings Underwater
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Following Texas Senator Ted Cruz's controversial decision not to endorse Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention, instead telling voters to "vote (their) conscience," a new poll out today shows that his approval ratings have sunk. The poll from Public Policy Polling shows that 39 percent of Texans approve of the job Cruz is doing, compared to 48 percent who don't approve. Additionally, despite winning the GOP primary in the state, the poll found that if the primary was held today, Trump would garner 52 percent of support to just 38 percent for Cruz.

Source:
×