The Sad, Embarrassing Spectacle of Chris Christie's Donald Trump Endorsement
Let this be a lesson for others looking to back Trump.
Chris Christie dropped out of the presidential race weeks ago, but he still managed to be Super Tuesday's biggest loser—thanks to Donald Trump.
It's been a rough couple of days for the New Jersey governor. After endorsing Trump for president last week in an embarrassing spectacle of a press conference, Christie went on to defend his decision to George Stephanopoulos on ABC.
The interview was even more of an embarrassment than the press conference. Stephanopoulos pointed out that Christie and Trump share almost no common goals by playing Chris Christie's own words back to him—on the infeasibility of building a border wall, on Trump's disinterest in reforming entitlements, on banning Muslims from entering the United States—and then asking Christie to explain how his positions aligned with Trump.
Christie had no good answer to any of these questions, because no good answer was possible. All he could say was that he and Trump don't agree on every issue, and that he's endorsing him anyway. But Stephanopoulos made it look practically like he and Trump don't agree on any issue. Christie was left struggling to defend his endorsement using only vague generalities. Trump is the strongest, the best, the only one who can make America great again, blah blah blah, winning, whatever.
There was something else about the interview, too—a strange air of submission. While running for president, Christie, who has known Trump for well over a decade, consistently called Trump, by his first name, Donald. But in the interview, he referred to him exclusively as "Mr. Trump," as if he were a flunky in The Trump Organization.
In endorsing Trump, Christie had been made to look both ridiculous and untrustworthy. And Christie's presidential backers, as well as residents of his home state, noticed.
On Tuesday, New Hampshire Union Leader publisher Joseph McQuaid, who endorsed Christie in the GOP race, issued a scathing follow-up: "Boy, were we wrong," the piece declared. "Watching Christie kiss the Donald's ring this weekend—and make excuses for the man Christie himself had said was unfit for the presidency—demonstrated how wrong we were." Later that day, six New Jersey papers called on Christie to resign, saying, "We're fed up with his opportunism. We're fed up with his hypocrisy." And new polling suggests that Christie's endorsement of Trump is hurting his reputation with residents of New Jersey.
Which brings us to last night. Christie introduced Trump before his victory celebration in Florida, and then the governor stood silently behind Trump while the candidate rambled on and answered questions. As he stood there, staring silently into the distance, clapping occasionally (but not enthusiastically), Christie looked trapped and terrified, anxious and confused, like a panicked hostage desperate to escape his captor. The power balance between the two men was clear: Christie, the vicious political attack dog, had somehow been tamed into a subservient house-pet.
There was something more than a bit pathetic about the sad, absurd little scene (replay the whole event in all its non-glory via C-SPAN). It was almost enough to make me feel sorry for Christie. Almost, but not quite. Christie chose to endorse Trump, chose to stand by him, chose to put himself in a position where he would have to defend Trump's various offenses and positions, reconcile them with his own statements, and look ridiculous in the process. He chose to be dominated by Trump.
But Christie's experience should serve as a lesson for others tempted to follow in his footsteps. Attempts to defend an embarrassment like Trump will only lead to embarrassment for his defenders; they will be enabling his campaign, but not themselves.