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Monday, October 24, 2016

It’s no surprise that Chris Christie has adopted the straight-talk strategy that carried John McCain to a huge upset victory over George W. Bush in the 2000 New Hampshire primary and helped him win the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. It’s a natural fit given the New Jersey governor’s blunt, outspoken personality.

Yet McCain was in first or second place in polls of New Hampshire at this point both times he ran. Christie is in single digits, and as far back as ninth in one poll of the large Republican pack.

There’s a reason it’s not working. There’s no way to break this gently: Chris Christie is no John McCain.

In McCain, the Arizona senator, you had a bona fide Vietnam War hero who had spent more than five years as a prisoner of war. You had a presidential candidate whose candor on the 2000 trail was startling, sometimes charming and occasionally quite personal.

When a voter in rural New Hampshire complained about substandard medical facilities, McCain said that was the price for the voter’s choice to live in a gorgeous setting instead of a more populated area. When another New Hampshire voter worried aloud about whether his child would be able to get a factory job, McCain advised him to aim higher for his child. He undercut his own anti-abortion position when a reporter asked if he’d forbid an abortion for his teenage daughter if she became pregnant — saying he’d discourage that but the final decision would be hers. When the predictable furor erupted, he did not kick the press off the bus.

With McCain, you also had politician who was publicly and continually remorseful about his role in a campaign finance scandal, who then became passionate about breaking the connection between money and influence. This defining ethics challenge came in 1987. That’s the year McCain and four other senators asked federal regulators to drop charges against the Lincoln Savings and Loan chaired by Charles Keating Jr., a donor to all their campaigns.

Taxpayers were on the hook for a $3 billion bailout when Lincoln S&L collapsed in 1989. McCain called his intervention on behalf of Keating “the worst mistake of my life.” A decade later he made campaign finance reform the centerpiece of his first presidential campaign.

Bridgegate has been Christie’s defining ethics challenge. The massively disruptive four-day traffic jam on the Fort Lee approach to the George Washington Bridge was engineered by his aides in 2013 as political revenge against a Democratic mayor who did not support him for re-election that year. For nearly a week, their fake “traffic study” turned 30-minute commutes into three and four hours. The New York Times offered a sampling of who was trapped in the crippling gridlock: first responders in police cars and ambulances; buses of kids headed to the first day of school; a longtime unemployed man who was late for his first day at a new job, and a woman who couldn’t reach the hospital in time for her husband’s stem-cell transplant.

Christie said he had been “blindsided” by the plot. He said he was embarrassed and humiliated and apologized to “the people of New Jersey” and “the people of Fort Lee.” He also denied creating an atmosphere that led to such behavior and maintained that “I am not a bully.” If he had followed the McCain model, Christie would have then become a highly visible national advocate for good government, political civility and excellence in public service. He might have started an organization to that effect, or joined one. Alternatively, perhaps he would have launched or lent his name to an anti-bullying organization.

Unlike McCain, Christie does not have a heroic personal biography to cushion problems. He does have a long, mixed, and controversial record as governor. He also has a long trail of viral videos that show him insulting and shouting at people who disagree with his policies. That image was a boon for his popularity and his fundraising for his party. He used to revel in it. Now, not so much. Now he is trying to morph into a policy truthteller on entitlements, taxes, and national security.

“Real. Honest. Direct. Tell It Like It Is.” According to National Journal, that’s the banner that advertised Christie’s recent appearance at The Village Trestle tavern in Goffstown, New Hampshire. But there’s a difference between confrontational straight talk and the McCain 2000 brand of straight talk. Christie, belatedly realizing that the first kind is not presidential, is trying to transition to the latter. But his problems go deeper than that, as do his differences from McCain.

Follow Jill Lawrence on Twitter @JillDLawrence. To find out more about Jill Lawrence and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at 

Image: The National Memo

  • Dominick Vila

    Christie, Santorum, Jindal, Cruz, Huckabee, and the majority of the Republican wannabes don’t have a chance in Hell to be nominated, and I suspect they know it.

    • highpckts

      Let’s hope so!!

      • Dominick Vila

        The GOP 2016 field is in such state of disarray, and ostensibly so out of touche with mainstream Americans, that I think they are not worth our time. I believe the GOP nomination is between Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. The rest are all “also ran”, or hoping to get the Nr. 2 spot or a Cabinet job.
        The smaller, and increasingly more competitive, Democratic field is a lot more fun to watch. Sen. Sanders is attracting large crowds of enthusiastic voters, who apparently include more than just the left wing of the party. His speeches, and the confidence he exhibits, suggest that he is running on his record and the values he believes in. He has managed to avoid appearing as a liberal proxy to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and instead of appearing as a stooge put forth by the Democratic party to avoid the impression of Hillary’s inevitability, he is proving to be his own man, and a person articulating thought provoking concepts that contrast with what the servants of corporate America usually say.

    • drdroad

      Actually, as a Democrat, I’d love to see Christie as the GOP Candidate. Hard to imagine a scenario where he could beat any of the Democrats currently running!

      • Dominick Vila

        Yes, that would be great, but it is not going to happen. Conservatives often sound a little crazy, but they are not dumb. Nominating Christie, Santorum, Cruz, Huckabe, Jindal, and most of those running at the present time would guarantee one of the worst electioneering defeats in U.S. and they are well aware of that fact. The GOP is being coy with their party loyalists, and the American people at large. I am convinced they will nominate Jeb, and I would not be surprised if a moderate sounding Scott Walker fills the VP spot.

  • adler56

    Christie is definitely a “joisey” guy- talks like someone who might have had more than his share of actual fights. His attitude reminds me of bad cops. They think the uniform alone
    (in his case his position) should make everyone just accept what he tells them.

  • i2grok

    I thought he had lap band surgery to reduce his weight? He still looks like a beached whale/ What happened?

    • CPAinNewYork

      Beached whales have to eat, too.

  • FT66

    Of course Chris Christie is no John McCain. McCain says something awkward but the way he says it, no one feels offended. Also this McCain laughs sometimes. Huge difference from Christie. This guy has a peculiar behavior of his own. The way he talks as if he is ever ready to puch anyone on the face. By the way, has anyone seen this man showing a little smile on his face? Not even once I have seen him doing so.

    • CPAinNewYork

      He probably is always grumpy because he’s not getting any sex. How can he? How can anybody with a body like that perform the sex act?

      • 5612jean

        That’s funny!

      • Eleanore Whitaker

        In that baseball uniform, it appears he needs one of those Little League “cups.”

      • FT66

        Not everything which has to involve sex makes everyone happy. This guy Christie has a big problem in his brains. He has been given chances many times to rectify his behavior but he has refused completely to do so. He thinks in his mind if he shows: bullying(to those who haven’t the power like he has); screaming to people (who have families at home); shouting (like a crazy person after smoking his weeds) is what it takes to be recognised as a tough leader. He is wrong. Voters don’t like that type of a leader.

      • dpaano

        Oooh, you just ruined my whole evening…..that is NOT a picture I want in my mind for long!

    • dpaano

      At least he doesn’t have that overly sour look like Trump…..that guy is downright ugl AND scary! IF he ever smiles, his face will probably fall off!

  • John Pennington

    Christie should be put in jail.Everyone knows he had something to do with bridgegate it will come out sooner than later.Good for him.

  • CPAinNewYork

    Christie has many problems, one of which is that he’s a crude fat slob.

    He also is not a stand up guy. He knew about the Bridgegate activities of his subordinates and threw them under the bus to save his worthless skin.

  • fredoandme

    christie is no mccain.
    that’s right. at the very east, two mccains would fit in there.

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    Christie has more problems than those outside of NJ imagine. He approves laws and then vetoes the same laws HE approved?

    He, like all conservatives, hate anything that forces his most flush campaign donors to have to pay their employees living wages. Thus, he loathes and abhors unions and to him all unions are the same. Not once does he EVER face the fact that no union labor leader earns a CEOs billionaire salary.

    He recently granted a 65 year contract to a crony who dumps money into his campaign. The hitch? NJ taxpayers are now on the hook for the next 65 years to pay the taxes this corporate crony won’t. Is that his version of “conservatism?”

    Most of us in Jersey wouldn’t mind so much but this is not a guarantee that this corporation (not even a Fortune 50, by the way) will continue to locate in NJ for 65 years. I give them 5 years and they’ll do what all corporations always do when the gleam of cheaper labor and no employee benefits is more enticing to the profit margins: offshore…and outsource, leaving NJ taxpayers on the hook for 65 years of playing catch up for taxes these pigs don’t pay.

    Christie is a fool. NJ is 43 in job growth. So what the hell good will handing out more near tax free cuts and subsidies do for NJ residents if not increase THEIR taxes while they run to NY City for jobs?

    Christie is no McCain…but, he is a BUSH…just like Bush, he has NO concepts of making big rich corporations act responsibly and pay their fair share OR, at the very least, honor the commitments that go along with generous tax cuts: To hire IN NJ and create jobs.

    This is the joke. Would Wall Street be as generous to shareholders who never honor their obligations?

    • dpaano

      Actually, he’s more of a Reagan than a Bush.

  • Bill

    Christie, McCain, both a–holes. Christie shows it every time he opens his mouth, and McCain shows it in the way he goes after Obama. I’m tired of seeing and hearing from either of them.

  • pmbalele

    I think I should sue Chris for stealing food from poor Americans. How did he get that big without take food share from others.

    • Semper Fi

      That will just be another Lawsuit by you that would be dismissed. Good luck with that racist.

    • greyfox

      You are bitter.

  • paulyz

    I certainly would not want to see either Christie or McCain as nominees.

  • Christie, and his cronies, still has not explained “Bridge-gate”. If he wants to blather let’s start here.