I have often described former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as a man of irrepressible ambition. Every action of his as governor and every partisan political action on his part has been calculated towards his attainment of his ultimate goal: his winning the national Republican presidential nomination in 2024.
Forget about the fact that Christie left the governorship in 2018 with historically low levels of unpopularity. He does maintain a cult like following, who sustain his belief that ultimately, nothing will stand as an obstacle to Chris Christie’s occupancy of the Oval Office.
Christie’s strategy has been transparent. He has attempted to transform himself, in chameleon fashion, from a leading strategist and general in the legions of Donald Trump into a Charles de Gaulle-like leader of the Republican Resistance.
The goal of the Republican Resistance is to reclaim the GOP from the illegitimate Vichy dictatorship of Donald Trump and his political descendants: Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, and Nikki Haley, who recently committed to the Trump loyalists, instead of seeking a GOP Resistance leadership role.
I must admit that there is a humorous aspect of the notion of Chris Christie as Charles de Gaulle. Can you imagine Chris Christie being hoisted on his beach chair as he leads the Free French under L’Arc de Triomphe?
Unfortunately for Christie, a new heroine, a Republican Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc) has arisen as the acclaimed leader of the Republican Resistance, Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming. The daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney is a woman of total anti-Trump credibility, unlike Christie, who to paraphrase him with his own words, spent five years as a favored figure in Trumpland squeezing all the juice out of the Trump orange.
Right now, like Joan of Arc, Liz Cheney is a figure whom the Trump Stormtroopers, led by the Republican Ernst Rohm, Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida seek to burn at the political stake by depriving her of her positions as both a Congresswoman from Wyoming and as Chair of the House Republican Conference. And from his exile in the Republican isle of Elba, Mar a Lago, Donald Trump has dispatched his pathetic weakling Vidkun Quisling, the contemptible House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy to gather the troops of Trump’s GOP fascistic army and drag Liz Cheney to the Republican gallows.
There are few people in the long glorious but now disgraced history of the Republican Party for whom I have more contempt than Kevin McCarthy. His despicably perverse leadership is distinguished by his efforts to protect the vile, lowlife, profoundly evil, racist, fascist, antisemitic QAnon acolyte Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene while attempting to destroy America’s leading Republican heroine Liz Cheney. Kevin McCarthy has all the intrinsic value of an aphrodisiac in a monastery and mammary glands on a bull. And I suspect that his Jersey lapdog, Congressman Jeff Van Drew will submissively dance to the Trump- McCarthy tune.
I suspect that Christie, with his eternal flame of presidential ambitions secretly hopes that the efforts of McCarthy and Gaetz to forever vanquish Liz Cheney are successful. Unfortunately, his hopes are forlorn. If McCarthy and Gaetz succeed in ousting Cheney from her position in House Republican Leadership or as a Congresswoman itself, her national political star will burn even more brightly, and her stature as the potential Republican presidential candidate of the center-right anti-Trump forces in 2024 will only be exponentially enhanced.
To put all this in its proper context, an advance view of the 2024 Republican Presidential sweepstakes is in order.
One should always view the presidential nominating process of parties out of power as being tantamount to the NCAA college basketball championship. Both processes have individual brackets, culminating in a championship final between the bracket winners.
There will be two brackets in the 2024 Republican presidential nomination process, differing in both message and policy positions. They are as follows:
1) The Trumpian bracket, whose message is that salvation, redemption, and ultimate victory is to be found in the glorification of The Donald and the Big Lie that Biden stole the election. Their message is one of fascistic authoritarianism, white grievance, QAnon conspiratorial theory, isolationism, and anti- science;
2) The Center-Right bracket, with a message of “move beyond and away from Trump in order to win back the White House.” Center-Right presidential aspirants will emphasize the need to move away from Trump in terms of his anti-science, white grievance positions. Their programmatic message is sound science, conservative internationalism, limited government, fiscal conservatism, anti-abortion, and ethical governance.
Before discussing the likelihood of either Liz Cheney or Chris Christie capturing the Center-Right bracket, there are three points that must be made:
- In 2024, Donald Trump will be an obese 78-year-old due to his horrifically indulgent and gluttonous health habits. He will also be besieged with a plethora of federal and New York State criminal and civil investigations. And as his niece, Mary Trump has stated, it is highly doubtful that he would risk a second loss.
Yet, while Donald Trump himself will not be the GOP presidential candidate in 2024, Trumpian politics will be a major factor in the outcome of that campaign.
- Trump’s vice-president Mike Pence will run for the Republican presidential nomination, attempting to appeal to both the Trumpian and Center-Right branches as a unity candidate. But he is trusted by neither wing of the party, and this will hamper his bid from the outset.
- For all practical purposes, the old Rockefeller Republican, “moderate” branch of the GOP no longer exists as an effective force, either in terms of numbers or message. Its members have either become Democrats or Center-Right Republicans.
The two major constituencies within the center-right bracket are the Never Trumpers and the Bush Network, the latter consisting of people who have either supported or worked closely in the past with Presidents Bush 41 and /or Bush 43 or former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Because of Christie’s previous personal and political fealty to Trump, he has no realistic possibility of besting Liz Cheney for the allegiance of the Never-Trump faction.
As for the support of the Bush faction, it became abundantly clear this past week that the heart, soul, and masses of this faction will belong to Liz Cheney.
When the Bush 43 administration ended, George W. Bush and his Vice-President Dick Cheney were estranged, due to Bush’s refusal to pardon Cheney’s chief of staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby. All this is long in the past, and Bush 43 and Dick Cheney are close friends and political allies again.
This past Friday, the office of George W. Bush announced that he would be calling Dick Cheney on Saturday, January 30 “to wish him a happy 80th birthday, and to thank him for his daughter’s service.” There is no doubt of the political reunification of the Bush and Cheney families.
And given a choice between Liz Cheney and Chris Christie for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, the endorsement of Bush 43 for Liz Cheney would be a virtual certainty.
So the emergence of Liz Cheney as the spiritual and political leader of the Republican Anti-Trump Resistance puts an end to any realistic future presidential chances of Chris Christie. He has as much chance of defeating Liz Cheney as Floyd Patterson had of defeating Sonny Liston.
And a note to Jack Ciattarelli: If you want a prayer of removing the Trump albatross from your 2021 New Jersey gubernatorial candidacy, you would invite Liz Cheney to come to New Jersey to campaign for you.
Alan Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.