The Spectacle Blog

New Jersey Race Gets Puffy

By on 5.24.09 | 9:52PM

Oh New Jersey Republican Primary. Will I ever tire of you? No, likely not.

Everyone gets one of these stories, I guess. A puff piece where they talk about those formative earlier experiences that shape you as a person, as a candidate, as a policy maker. The title here is, "Christie: A need to lead, honed by family and success," which, by way of literary merits, lacks that thing writers refer to as rising action. I put the article through my fact-finding machine with an eye toward "actual achievements helpful to New Jerseyans," or "key elements of his core philosophy."

Which is why I never really get these pieces. John Edwards got one heck of one from Matt Bai back in 2007, including such lines as:

Everything else in the campaign, Edwards seems to think, all these carefully orchestrated photo ops and drop-bys and van rides with the media, is the kind of empty political theater from which he declared himself liberated after his last presidential run. He gives the impression that he simply endures it.

Yeah. Okay. We all saw the video of the combing.

Anyway, back to Christie. What is the message of the Christie campaign? A fighter against corruption, a man with the management experience and the political capital necessary to defeat Jon Corzine. Okay. So let's see where we encounter Chris Christie, fighter of corruption. Oh. Here:

He has seemed at times to bristle at questions about some of his decisions as prosecutor -- like the multimillion-dollar monitoring contracts he gave to former attorney general John Ashcroft and to the New York prosecutor whose office decided not to charge Christie's brother, Todd, in a stock fraud investigation -- but insists he recognizes it's part of the election gantlet.

That's it. That's all the profile concludes about his time as attorney. That he has had to suffer through reasonable questions (that remain pretty unclear) about his record as a U.S. Attorney. The rest of the profile focuses on Christie's political ambition:

"From the day we all met him, we knew he was a leader," said Anthony Della Pelle, a classmate and friend of Christie's since both were boys.

... By his senior year in high school, Christie had been elected class president six times. Twice that year he was picked to attend student leadership programs in Washington, meeting legislators and cabinet members and visiting the White House.

... It was in his senior year of college that Christie, then the president of student government, began dating Mary Pat Foster.

... Bush's decision to nominate Christie as U.S. attorney stirred unprecedented opposition, particularly from New Jersey attorneys who considered his appointment the worst kind of political patronage.

...[T]he principal at Livingston High School while Christie was there, said he always assumed Christie wanted to run for governor. ... "Just knowing Chris and his ambition and his love of politics, I just automatically thought of the top slot -- because he usually aspired to the top slot," Berlin said last week from his home in New Mexico.

In other words, Christie appears to have been pushing to be in power for much of his life. His first big break was a nod from the president for a position for which he wasn't entirely prepared -- he had never been a prosecutor before. And Christie's prosecutorial and ethics record must be especially bad, considering how little of that record gets mentioned.

The puff piece for Lonegan came out earlier this month, offering insights into how Lonegan's struggle with his blindness and meager beginnings led to a passionate drive toward self-improvement, and ultimately, a firm political philosophy ("The Carter-era economy of stagflation didn't help, and Lonegan swears he could sense the difference when Ronald Reagan took office"). While certainly not hard on Lonegan either, far more time is dedicated to clueing in a reader to what a Lonegan governership would look like.

Yet the Christie puff piece spends 300 words on high school baseball as some sort of allegorical closer. We learn that Christie and his high school baseball team are planning on having their next reunion at the governor's mansion. A man with a plan, indeed.

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