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Life Lessons from…Chris Christie

Monday, 24 February, 2014

Illustration by Jennifer Choat

Republican Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie is a bundle of contradictions. He’s a pro-life conservative, with 86 per cent of the women’s vote in the Democratic Garden State. He preaches bipartisanship, but harbours a dangerous instinct for political retribution. A keen advocate for slimmed-down fiscal regulation, the elephantine Governor is best known for his girth; he weighs in at around 130 kilograms (300 pounds). He was a humble young high school baseball player, willingly sitting on the bench to make room for a new ‘best catcher’. He’s got a good sense of humour, eating a doughnut amid cheers on the Late Show with David Letterman, but he’s not to be pushed too far.

1. You got to do what you got to do.

Superstorm Sandy struck Christie’s state of New Jersey in late October 2012. The country was barely a month shy of their Presidential election. Christie’s first act as Governor when Sandy hit was to bring the Democratic Commander-in-Chief to New Jersey’s “ground zero”. As he led Obama on a tour of the worst-ravaged neighbourhoods, Christie embraced the President and stood demurely to his right at a press conference. Christie wasn’t just paying lip service to back the winning horse. His constituents needed federal disaster relief. Their Governor put the interests of New Jersey above Republican political etiquette. Christie’s approval rating spiked to 77 per cent.

 2. Keep a spare head to roll.

Christie’s shining bipartisan integrity was vitiated when he allegedly engineered a four-day traffic jam on New Jersey’s George Washington Bridge as political payback to the town of Fort Lee and its local mayor. The only damning evidence was an email from Christie’s chief advisor Bridget Anne Kelly, saying ominously “Time for traffic problems in Fort Lee”. In spite of her loyal service, Kelly became expendable. She was unceremoniously sacked and then berated for causing the Governor “embarrassment and humiliation”. Christie followed up a marathon press conference on Kelly’s termination with a heartfelt apology to the family of a 91-year-old woman who died as the result of an ambulance delay on the bridge.

3. Trust your instincts.

Republican Party leaders approached Christie in 2010 with the offer of a spot in the primaries. But running against an incumbent President, having already alienated the ultra-conservative gun lobby and the hard-right Tea Party, was an unwinnable race. He listened to his substantial gut and waited it out. Christie is not a ground-breaking visionary or libertarian darling – he’s the “electable one”. In the words of his hero Bruce Springsteen – “It’s a sad man, my friend, who’s livin’ in his own skin and can’t stand the company.” Christie is the favourite for the 2016 Republican Presidential candidate. Well played.