National Review Online asked radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, the author of a new book on happiness, for his reaction to Chris Christie’s press conference today, which he deems “an extraordinary political event.”
KJL: What was your impression of Christie’s press conference?
HEWITT: That was one of the most fascinating, indeed riveting two hours in recent American political history. The comparisons to Nixon’s Checkers speech will arrive soon, and of course already have arrived vis-a-vis President Obama’s standard duck-cover-filibuster pressers. Authentic, transparent, unscripted and sincere. Very powerful.
KJL: Is this scandal an important one? It’s about traffic on the George Washington Bridge! That happens often.
HEWITT: A woman died. That makes it huge. Traffic jams, no. Proximate cause of fatality? Huge.
KJL: Is it a matter to grieve over, as Christie put it?
HEWITT: To be sad at betrayal is a very widespread feeling. Pollsters always tell us voters want to know if candidates understand how they feel. Governor Christie explained his feelings. Like I said: very powerful.
KJL: Is it fair to compare the governor of New Jersey to the secretary of state or president handling Benghazi?
HEWITT: All scandals, like all unhappy families, are unique. But the response of the central figure always gets compared. This was not am “I did not have sexual relations with that woman . . .” moment or a parsing of the words “terrorist attack” but straight-forward, utterly candid, and transparently emotional. Christie demonstrated sadness and laughter and resolve — combined with the always welcomed mocking of the press at key moments.
KJL: What’s your impression of all the first-person talk of feelings?
HEWITT: Much needed when authentic. This was. It is the way Americans talk when they are serious, and it’s very attractive to voters worn out by clipped talking points and evasion
KJL: Did he go on too long?
HEWITT: No. But press missed key questions: How did your closest adviser — Mary Pat — react, and what did she advise?
KJL: Thinking of your recent book on happiness, what do his comments about human nature have to do with leadership, trust, and the possibility of happiness?
HEWITT: Betrayal is a terrible thing. It is a huge impediment to happiness. But dealing with it in such a candid and resolute way is perhaps the best advice. [For more on The Happiest Life: Seven Gifts, Seven Givers, and the Secret to Genuine Success, see Q&A here.]
KJL: Will we remember this in six months? Does it matter to 2016?
Hewitt: Absolutely. “I am not a bully” and about 20 other lines will be played as often as “What difference . . . does it make?” And “if you like your doctor . . .” Sound bytes define political figures