Christie Is Not One of Us
New Jersey could do much worse, but he is not conservative.

New Jersey governor Chris Christie


Andrew C. McCarthy

I feel something washing over me. I’m standing in New Jersey, so it’s probably red ink. No, wait a minute — it’s glowing ink! It could only be one thing: more conservative hagiography about the Garden State’s GOP governor.

Chris Christie is so not one of us that articles like “Christie Is One of Us” — a new contribution to the genre, from National Review’s Noah Glyn — are churned out regularly as the governor’s smitten admirers, from Ann Coulter to NR staffers, labor to convince us of what they’ve convinced themselves of: that an ostensibly gruff, internally milquetoast, progressive-lite, pro-Islamist Republican must be the second coming of Ronald Reagan because he has managed to make a basket-case blue state marginally less of a basket case. And “marginally” is the operative word. Glyn’s valentine to Christie is unfortunately timed. It was published just as Moody’s declared that Christie’s claim to have put New Jersey’s fiscal house in order is grossly overstated. More on that in a bit.

Mr. Glyn contends that I was “unfair” in portraying Mr. Christie as a “tough-talking moderate” whose record does not match his rhetoric. I’d realize Christie is really a “tough-talking conservative,” Glyn asserts, if only I were one of “the citizens of New Jersey who know him best.”

As it happens, I am a citizen of New Jersey, so my reasons for examining his record closely go beyond my day job. It is based on that examination that I see Christie as wildly overrated. Sure, his YouTube smackdowns of overmatched lefty hacks are catnip for the Right. The routine gets old fast, though. The tantrums have become as mundane as “Pass the salt.” Christie now erupts not only at teachers’ union drones but at NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly, New York congressman Pete King, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, anti-sharia “crazies” who resist Islamic supremacism, all those “completely intellectually dishonest” conservatives who think Romneycare may not have been a fabulous idea, and, one infers, just about anyone who happens by when Governor Grumpy is having a bad day . . . which seems to be often. Plus, there’s not much rain in them big winds: Christie’s bully-boy études do not drown out his nonstop symphony to “bipartisanship,” nor obscure that it is “compromise” with the Left that sends him into (not infrequent) frissons of self-adulation.

To be sure, Christie is a very talented politician and a deft extemporaneous speaker. He has done some good things in a heavily Democratic state dominated by municipal unions. He is certainly, as blue-state governors go, better than average. That does not make him a conservative, much less the “consistent conservative” of Glyn’s portrayal.

On that score, Glyn’s reliance on Quinnipiac’s recent poll misses the point. The university was polling the governor’s job approval, not his adherence to conservative principles. I have my problems with Christie, but I’d probably have been among the 59 percent of New Jerseyans who approve of the job he’s done.

But job approval is relative. When Christie sought the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2009, I preferred Steve Lonegan, who actually is a consistent conservative. I was deeply disappointed when Christie made like a Democrat and attacked Lonegan’s conservative proposals: a flat tax, a $5 billion spending cut, and the shuttering of government agencies. It was what you’d expect from a cardboard cut-out northeastern GOP moderate proponent of progressive taxation and the welfare state — which is exactly what Christie has proven to be. Still, Christie was clearly preferable to the loathsome incumbent Democrat (and now part-time Obama bundler, full-time embezzlement suspect), Jon Corzine.