Now we know what really drives Chris Christie—the authoritarian urge.
The New Jersey governor's endorsement of Donald Trump was notable for many reasons: the way it expertly shook up the news cycle following a bad debate for Trump, the harsh criticism Christie reserved for his former presidential rival Marco Rubio, and the fact that Christie has repeatedly, on record, criticized Trump and suggested that he should not be president. As recently as December, Christie was saying things like, "We do not need reality TV in the Oval Office right now. President of the United States is not a place for an entertainer."
Today, however, Christie seems to have changed his mind and decided that a huckster-entertainer like Trump is exactly what the country needs. And in doing so, he made the choice to support the GOP candidate who is most openly and forcefully opposed to the single issue that Christie prioritized most in his own campaign: entitlement reform.
Christie, you may recall, entered the race last year on the promise to make entitlement reform the central issue of his campaign. In April of 2015, he delivered a major speech outlining his ideas for reforming entitlements, which included restructuring Social Security by raising the retirement age to 69 and means testing benefits. In the speech, he declared that debt stemming from entitlements "growing the deficit and slowly but surely taking over all of government. In the long term, it will steal our children's future and bankrupt our nation." And he warned against those who insisted that entitlements posed no serious problem, saying that Washington "is afraid to have an honest conversation about Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid with the people of our country. I am not."
No one now in the GOP presidential field is more afraid of that conversation than Donald Trump, especially when it comes to Social Security. Indeed, just days after Christie's speech, Trump declared that he was "disappointed" with Republicans, because they wanted to reform entitlements. "Every Republican wants to do a big number on Social Security, they want to do it on Medicare, they want to do it on Medicaid," Trump said. "And we can't do that. And it's not fair to the people that have been paying in for years and now all of the sudden they want to be cut."
In his book Time to Get Tough, Trump wrote: "Now I know there are some Republicans who would be just fine with allowing these programs to wither and die on the vine. The way they see it, Social Security and Medicare are wasteful 'entitlement programs.' But people who think this way need to rethink their position." The only Social Security reforms Trump has been willing to accept are totally unspecified efforts to root out waste, fraud, and abuse.
This is the candidate that Chris Christie decided to endorse for president—the one person left in the GOP field who has declared that he has no interest whatsoever in the sort of reforms that Christie claimed were the central goal of his campaign.
Instead, Christie sided with the candidate who has called for closing mosques and banning Muslims from traveling to the country, the candidate who has repeatedly told falsehoods about his record, the candidate who has so little respect for freedom of speech and freedom of the press that today called for weakening libel laws so that he could sue newspapers over negative stories.
Christie, of course, was also the most explicitly anti-libertarian candidate in the race, and the most hostile to libertarian concerns in the GOP. Liberty was never a priority for him. So maybe it's not surprising that he'd rather back an unapologetic liar, bully, and authoritarian than follow through on the issues he once pretended to care about. At least he's made his priorities clear.