As I started to write this piece, Republicans and Democrats were aquiver with apprehension about whether New Jersey governor Chris Christie would seek the Republican presidential nomination. I wrote that if he did, he would be seeking to duplicate the feat of perhaps the president he least resembles in all of American history: Woodrow Wilson, who successfully sought the presidency after just one term as New Jersey’s governor. And then, of course, Christie declared he would not be a candidate.
While Wilson had been, as president of Princeton University, one of America’s most famous academics and education reformers, Chris Christie has toiled in the much less promising and virtuous vineyard of the U.S. prosecution service. But the presence at the head of his nascent organization of Ken Langone was reassuring: Langone is a great American who, as a director of the New York Stock Exchange, approved compensation for Exchange president Richard Grasso, only to endure false attacks from the infamous New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer for doing so. In the face of Spitzer’s assault, a wide swath of Wall Street’s great and good defected, reneged on the compensation they had agreed for Grasso, and skulked shamefully away. But Langone stuck to his guns, was vindicated in ignoring Spitzer’s attempts at intimidation, and for good measure even made a takeover bid for the NYSE. I considered this to be rivaled only by the 90-year-old Kirk Kerkorian’s apparent preparedness to make a takeover bid for General Motors as the classiest move by a major American financier in the last decade.
If such a brave and successful combatant against the prosecutocracy as Ken Langone is happy with Governor Christie, I feel I have no standing to hang back.
The embryonic Christie candidacy was also unique in the quality of its other visible supporters: eminent financier Paul Fisher, and Henry Kissinger, America’s greatest secretary of state since Gen. George Marshall, if not John Quincy Adams. As far as I have been able to observe, none of the other Republican candidates has received the endorsement of anyone except a few fellow pols.
Also, Christie was the only one of the near candidates still in possible contention who had the advantage of a recent, still-unfolding track record as a deficit-beater, in a large-population state that was an economic and fiscal basket case when he took it over less than two years ago.
It has been a very frustrating election-campaign run-up so far, because the country is suffering the greatest decline in its history. Public finances, as well as the education, justice, and much of the health-care systems are in shambles; official environmental policy is nonsense; and in foreign affairs, apart from tentative progress in Iraq and Afghanistan and against terrorists, nothing useful is happening. Tyrants, as in Iran, are appeased; nuclear proliferation into the worst possible hands is treated with passivity; and democracy, as in Honduras, is contested. A sizeable majority of Americans has given up on the Obama administration, but the Republicans, up to now, have been implausible.
This frustration is accentuated by Christie’s success in balancing the state budget and facing down the teachers’ unions — which, apart from being the beneficiaries of unearned and unaffordable largesse, are also chiefly responsible for the collapse of the public-education system. Christie’s accomplishments would have made his a uniquely timely CV among the Republican candidates.