The Corner

Chris Christie: Lout

New Jersey governor Chris Christie has a problem with self-control. It’s time the blustery governor takes a chill pill, stops trying to act like some character from The Sopranos, and learns how to act like an adult instead of like an over-amped adolescent trying to prove his tough-guy bona fides at the corner hangout.

Video of Christie’s latest tirade is all over the cable networks and viral on the Internet. It’s an ugly thing to watch. What’s ugly is not so much Christie telling his heckler to “sit down and shut up” as is the belligerent tone and unchecked anger throughout the nearly two-minute exchange. What’s also ugly is the self-importance; the self-aggrandizement (“I’ve been here when the cameras aren’t here, buddy, and done the work!” Really? When did this publicity hound ever do something supposedly good without inviting the cameras in? And what work — announcing that somebody else’s dollars were finally flowing to the area?); his denigration of the heckler’s own hands-on relief efforts, and the . . . well, again, just watch it yourself to see the whole nasty performance.

Now please understand, I hold no brief for hecklers at public-speaking events. Heckling is utterly loutish behavior, and it has no legitimate place in the public square. I also think it’s perfectly understandable for the victims of heckling to get frustrated. I know of at least two times when Ronald Reagan told hecklers to “shut up,” but Reagan’s tone even then was completely different from Christie’s: exasperated but not bullying, honestly aggrieved but not treating the heckling as if it were an affront to his own manhood. (And, of course, there were other times when Reagan handled heckling with a winning sense of humor. It’s hard even to imagine Christie shrugging off a heckler with any grace.)

What’s also galling is the substance of the exchange. This is the same Governor Christie who went way overboard right after Superstorm Sandy in praising President Obama for supposedly ample help with the recovery effort, even though all Obama had done was fly in for a photo op and make some promises. Of course, Christie’s extravagant embrace of Obama then almost certainly owed more to his own political needs than it did to anything the federal government had yet done to mitigate the storm damage (while of course aiding and abetting the imposition on the rest of the country of four more years of Obama’s godawful misrule). Now, two years later, there can be no doubt that much of the promised aid still hasn’t arrived. Christie says so himself; in fact, he’s in a spitting match with U.S. Senator Robert Menendez about whose fault it is that the disbursement of funds has been so slow, while two-thirds of storm victims remain dissatisfied with the recovery efforts. 

So the heckler was raising a valid concern in an utterly invalid manner. Rather than having the grace, not to mention the political sense, to try to turn the heckler’s dissatisfaction to his own advantage — something like a “Hey, buddy, I share your distress; I want to get to the bottom of it too!” — Christie did his usual and by now tired routine of trying to outshout the shouter.

Christie has a temperament utterly unsuited to the presidency. Somebody needs to tell him to sit down and . . . mind his manners. 

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