On Friday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ordered beaches across the Garden State closed – a reaction to the ongoing budget impasse in the state’s legislature.
Less than 48 hours later, photos from NJ Advance Media showed Christie sunning himself with his family on Island Beach State Park – the only people on the beach because, well, the governor had closed it.
This photo really sums it up.
This one is also kind of amazing – with Christie looking at the plane, the one taking pictures of him, overhead”
But, wait! It gets worse! Way worse!
Turns out that after those photos were taken on Sunday, Christie took the state helicopter to Trenton for a press conference. At it, he was asked about staying at the beach while the beaches were shut down. “I didn’t get any sun today,” Christie responded.
When shown the pictures, a Christie spokesman – in what will be fast-tracked into the spin Hall of Fame – responded: “He did not get any sun. He had a baseball hat on.”
The “hat” defense! Epic. Absolutely epic.
Christie, for his part, was dismissive of the controversy in an interview on Monday with a local TV station – saying of the Star Ledger’s pictures: “They actually caught a politician being where he was going to be with the people he said he was going to be with, his wife and his children and their friends. So I’m sure they’re going to get a Pulitzer Prize for this one because they actually proved they caught me doing what I said to do with the people I said I was going to be with.”
Then, he tweeted this: “NJ beaches are open in 119 of our our 130 miles of coastline. Come and enjoy them–but use sunscreen and hydrate!”
What the episode shows that Christie has moved beyond caring what the people he was elected to represent think about him.
Consider Christie’s life since Feb. 10, 2016, when he dropped out of the presidential race following a disappointing showing in the New Hampshire primary.
Just 16 days later, Christie endorses Donald Trump’s campaign. He spent much of the rest of the campaign traveling around with Trump – to much ridicule – perhaps in hopes of winding up as the vice presidential pick or as a member of the Cabinet. Neither happened. And, Christie got fired as the head of the presidential transition in favor of Vice President Mike Pence.
Meanwhile, back in New Jersey, Christie’s approval numbers took a massive hit – partly because of his ties to Trump and partly due to the fact that he wasn’t in the state all that much.
By mid-June, a Quinnipiac University poll put Christie’s approval rating at just 15%, the worst approval rating for any governor in any state poll ever conducted by Quinnipiac. Eighty-one percent of New Jersey voters disapproved of the job Christie was doing.
That same poll cast Christie’s lieutenant governor, Kim Guadagno, as a major underdog to keep the governor’s mansion in Republican hands this fall – largely due to the incumbent’s unpopularity. A majority (54%) of voters said Guadagno’s ties to Christie have a negative impact on their views of her.
And now, Christie on the beach. And telling reporters he didn’t get any sun. And the pictures. And his spokesman’s “hat” spin.
What explains it? Either Christie is actively working to destroy any political future he might have or he has simply stopped caring.
The latter option is more plausible. Christie is term-limited out of office early next year. He has zero interest in running for the US Senate and couldn’t get elected to one of those seats even if he did want to wind up in the world’s greatest deliberative body.
Christie’s only option is to be a second-wave Trump administration appointee; he is regularly rumored as a chief of staff possibility if and when Reince Priebus leaves or is ushered out.
And, if there’s anyone out there who l-o-v-e-s Christie sunbathing while the beaches are shut down, it’s Trump. The President digs anyone who thumbs his nose at convention. If you can feud with the press too, well, that’s a double bonus in the eyes of Trump.
When you see Christie on the beach then, you see a man who has stopped caring. He knows he is done as a politician in New Jersey – and that his only possible future rests in the hands of a man who has built a political career on flouting convention.