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
Add to Briefcase
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 »
TWO MONTHS AFTER REFUSING AT CONVENTION
Cruz to Back Trump
2 days ago
THE LATEST
WHO TO BELIEVE?
Two Polls for Clinton, One for Trump
2 days ago
THE LATEST

With three days until the first debate, the polls are coming fast and furious. The latest round:

  • An Associated Press/Gfk poll of registered voters found very few voters committed, with Clin­ton lead­ing Trump, 37% to 29%, and Gary John­son at 7%.
  • A Mc­Clatchy-Mar­ist poll gave Clin­ton a six-point edge, 45% to 39%, in a four-way bal­lot test. Johnson pulls 10% support, with Jill Stein at 4%.
  • Rasmussen, which has drawn criticism for continually showing Donald Trump doing much better than he does in other polls, is at it again. A new survey gives Trump a five-point lead, 44%-39%.
NO SURPRISE
Trump Eschewing Briefing Materials in Debate Prep
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

In contrast to Hillary Clinton's meticulous debate practice sessions, Donald Trump "is largely shun­ning tra­di­tion­al de­bate pre­par­a­tions, but has been watch­ing video of…Clin­ton’s best and worst de­bate mo­ments, look­ing for her vul­ner­ab­il­it­ies.” Trump “has paid only curs­ory at­ten­tion to brief­ing ma­ter­i­als. He has re­fused to use lecterns in mock de­bate ses­sions des­pite the ur­ging of his ad­visers. He prefers spit­balling ideas with his team rather than hon­ing them in­to crisp, two-minute an­swers.”

Source:
TRUMP NO HABLA ESPANOL
Trump Makes No Outreach to Spanish Speakers
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Donald Trump "is on the precipice of becoming the only major-party presidential candidate this century not to reach out to millions of American voters whose dominant, first or just preferred language is Spanish. Trump has not only failed to buy any Spanish-language television or radio ads, he so far has avoided even offering a translation of his website into Spanish, breaking with two decades of bipartisan tradition."

Source:
$1.16 MILLION
Clintons Buy the House Next Door in Chappaqua
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Bill and Hillary Clinton have purchased the home next door to their primary residence in tony Chappaqua, New York, for $1.16 million. "By purchasing the new home, the Clinton's now own the entire cul-de-sac at the end of the road in the leafy New York suburb. The purchase makes it easier for the United States Secret Service to protect the former president and possible future commander in chief."

Source:
×