Over the weekend, a picture of New Jersy Gov. Chris Christie dressing down a teacher who asked him about school budgets went semi-viral. I was a little surprised, because I thought Christie had stopped doing this kind of thing as his national ambitions became more obvious. Apparently not. But Dave Weigel, who snapped the pics, provides a tidbit of interesting background:
Mary Pat Christie smiled through the entire talk-off. Why? Because a local NBC News camera was facing at her, capturing the scene. Two days later, I don’t see any trace of the video online. Is that a statement on how ordinary the confrontation was? Possibly. I think it’s also a reflection of the frontrunner coverage boosting Christie as the race ends, as the polls showing him winning (with up to 37 percent of voters not even knowing who is opponent is) are taken as prima facie evidence that he’s running a faultless campaign. The day after this little contretemps, one of north Jersey’s major papers ran an analysis of how the governor’s tone had moderated so much recently.
Back in early 2012, when the chatter about Christie’s presidential chops first started, I remember thinking that I just didn’t believe it. Obviously Christie has some ideological baggage, but that wasn’t my big reason for skepticism. It was his famous bullying of ordinary citizens. Sure, it went over great in New Jersey, and even among the national media it seemed like a bit of fresh air: a politician willing to say what he really meant even if it wasn’t entirely PC.
But governor of New Jersey is one thing. President of the United States is another. If this had been 2016 and Christie had pulled Saturday’s stunt during a primary run, that NBC footage would be blanketing cable news on a 24/7 loop. If he did it a second time, his presidential aspirations would be over. Something that seems sort of cute when it’s just Jersey—and when it’s something you vaguely hear about third hand—would sink you if you were running for president. I guarantee you that the American public will very quickly become repelled at the sight of a Jersey loudmouth bullying ordinary citizens who have the temerity to disagree with him.
So the question is, can Christie control himself? Or will he lose his temper one too many times during a grueling, sleepless primary campaign? Since “one too many times” is quite possibly “once,” my money says he doesn’t stand much of a chance.