Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) took his family to his government beach home over the weekend while state beaches were closed for a budget-impasse-induced government "shutdown." A journalist snapped photos of Christie and family on the otherwise empty beach, producing a PR disaster. Chris Cillizza, a political analyst at CNN, tweeted that Chris Christie's "tone-deafness" was "truly remarkable."
But was it really?
Christie's electoral career is over. His approval rating in New Jersey is scraping the bottom of the barrel. He can't run for governor again, and New Jersey hasn't elected a Republican to the Senate since 1972. Unconstrained by the need to face the voters again, he isn't tone-deaf so much as he's revealing his true self.
That true self is pretty typical of politicians. As Lawrence Reed wrote last year, the bigger a government is, the less likely it is to attract office-seekers who are "honest, humble, fair, wise, independent, responsible, incorruptible, mindful of the future and respectful of others." Lord Acton noted that power corrupts more than a century ago, and his premise has been tested scientifically.
The fact that Christie's actions caught so many political reporters by surprise illustrates the myths the political class like to tell each other—prime among them, that politicians have some innate sense of decency. The rise and success of Donald Trump should have dispelled that idea, but evidently it hasn't. They see Trump as something totally different from most previous politicians, not as a distilled version of what came before.
Christie's senioritis illustrates another problem. The New Jersey governor already has a government home: Drumthwacket, a mansion outside the state capitol. Why the hell does he need some beachfront property too? In a sane world, Christie's historic unpopularity would create the momentum for scaling back the governor's perks. But that would require a shift in attitude toward the people attracted to high office. It would require people like Cillizza to recognize that Christie isn't an aberration; he's the norm.