The Corner

The Christie Question

Earlier this week, there was a spring in conservatives’ step. That was because Chris Christie was in deep doo-doo. His career seemed to be imploding, over Bridgegate. Conservatives hadn’t been so happy since the Obamacare rollout (which wasn’t that long ago).

The end of Christie’s career would not be a good thing — for New Jersey, for the Republican party, for conservatism, or for the country. He is a valuable conservative, one of the most talented politicians in America. We are lucky to have him on our side — general side.

Lately, I have been more and more impatient with 100-percenters — people who have to agree with someone 100 percent in order to consider him any good. There is very little room for 100-percentism in politics. In other spheres of life, maybe, but not this one.

Occasionally, I will quote someone favorably in my column. And someone will e-mail me, “Yeah, but do you recall what he said on September 8, 1999? Traitor!” That word could refer to me or the fellow I had originally quoted.

Sometimes it seems that no one is ever good enough for us: not 41, not Dole, not 43, not anybody. In the summer of 2012, people said that Mitt Romney would be a sell-out commie squish if he picked anyone but Paul Ryan as his running mate. If he picked Rob Portman or Tim Pawlenty or Kelly Ayotte, that would be proof positive of his sell-out commie squishdom. He picked the sainted Ryan — so “Mittens” got a reprieve for a while.

But in recent weeks, the sainted Ryan struck some budget deal that is maybe not good. So he is no longer sainted — he is a sell-out commie squish. It can be hard to keep track of the Right’s list of Good and Bad. Today’s sheep can be tomorrow’s goat.

If you spend enough time in RightWorld, you may be led to believe that our enemies are John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Eric Cantor, Karl Rove, Reince Priebus, and definitely anyone named Bush. I can’t tell you how nutso this seems to them (as to me). In the words of one of them, “I’ve been decried as a right-wing lunatic my entire life. And to be decried now as an establishment moderate is almost an out-of-body experience.”

Think for a second what it’s like to be George W. Bush. In the dominant liberal culture — the universities, Hollywood, the news media — you’re Attila the Hun, if not BusHitler. (Did I spell that right?) In RightWorld, you’re Elliot Richardson, at best.

Politics is not for everyone, heaven knows. It’s a messy business, full of compromises and concessions, half-loaves and quarter-loaves (and crumbs). Sometimes a reading group seems more inviting than politics: We can just sit around and recite Russell Kirk to one another. Reagan is Saint Ronald now, but he was very impure when he was practicing politics, leading many on the right to denounce him, or sigh over him. We’ve got to run someone in 2016: and it ain’t gonna be Sheriff Joe. Emotionally satisfying as that might be.

Because I am a Ted Cruz man — he is an old, dear friend, and I’ll be supporting him in ’16, if he runs — I should be gleeful over Christie’s tumble. I am not, however. I think that conservative rejoicing over his troubles is unseemly, and self-defeating. I don’t have to be for him 100 percent to appreciate him. Eighty percent will do, and maybe even 65.

In the days following the 2012 election, I could hardly stand to look at him. And I think his handling of the Senate vacancy in his state stank. I could go on.

Honestly, my inclinations are to be a hundred-percenter: “He hugged Obama, à la Charlie Crist? What is it with governors named Crist or Christie? Screw ’im.” But then I check myself. I realize that the loss of Chris Christie would not be a gain but a loss. We need Christie, in addition to Allen West and others who make us pump our fists with joy.

So, that’s my position for now, until Christie ticks me off again. (That could be by tomorrow morning, true.)


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