Yesterday was the day Chris Christie became relevant again, regaining a full measure of gravitas.
Chris Christie has been the James Buchanan of New Jersey governors, a complete failure. He has been a paragon of misfeasance, malfeasance, and incompetence on both ethics and policy. He has become a national laughingstock due to Beachgate. Our governor is now great fodder for comedians, due to the subsequent publication of hilarious memes showing Christie in the beach chair, juxtaposed against backgrounds ranging from Gilligan’s Island to the Macy’s Parade.
None of this, however, detracts from Christie’s outstanding record as Federal District Attorney for New Jersey during the presidential administration of George W. Bush. In that capacity, Christie created for himself a legacy of courage, competency, and unquestioned integrity in successfully pursuing prosecutions against corrupt political players in both the public and private sector.
Indeed, Chris Christie as U.S. Attorney established himself in history as the Thomas E. Dewey of New Jersey. While he retains no credibility as a governor, his integrity as a former U.S. Attorney remains intact and unsullied.
And yesterday, with one well-placed rapier thrust, Chis Christie used his towering credibility as New Jersey’s former U.S. Attorney to politically rock the Trump administration on its heels.
The firestorm regarding the meeting last summer between Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort on behalf of the Trump campaign and a Russian attorney and lobbyist rages out of control and threatens the survival of the Trump presidency. Various surrogates of the Trump administration have now retreated into the sophistic defense that even if the Trump campaign received damaging information on Hillary Clinton from Russia, this would not be illegal, even if the information was derived from the Russian cyber-attack against the United States.
Yesterday, Christie inflicted severe political damage to that defense by asserting that getting such information from a foreign country was “probably against the law in addition to being inappropriate.” This reinforced the statement of conservative jurist and Fox commentator Andrew Napolitano, who stated that if damaging information about Hillary Clinton was provided at the meeting, it would have been a “felony, the completion of a crime.”
To be sure, Christie was careful to note that in his view, there is no evidence that the Trump campaign obtained such research. In no way, however, does that mitigate the evisceration of the sham Trump “legality” defense meted out by the non-colluding duo of Christie and Napolitano.
For good measure, Christie also landed an Earnie Shavers quality right hand rhetorical punch against his White House nemesis, Jared Kushner, with his following comment: “Now, I don’t know that Donald Trump Jr. had any obligation to come forward and say who he was meeting with at that time. But certainly, those who are members of the government have an obligation to give everything, completely true and accurate.”
By and large, in his national political forays, Chris Christie has resembled the famed slugger from Orange, New Jersey, Tony Galento. Like “Two-Ton Tony,” Christie has had a punch, but has been slow, plodding, and awkward.
But yesterday, Christie was Joe Louis: Sharp, quick, excellent reflexes, and knockout power. This was quite a contrast from his previous obsequiousness towards Trump.
This is all reminiscent of the Shakespeare play, “Julius Caesar.” I have no doubt that today, Donald Trump is thinking to himself, “Et tu, Brute, Christie!” But Chris Christie will survive to see, ” Then fall, Caesar Trump!”
Alan J. 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 under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman.