Chris Christie — Small Politics From a Big Man

Not Chris Christie. Also not anyone Chris Matthews has ever heard speak

Immediately after this speech, Chris Matthews said, “pros will call this a barnburner with a touch of Churchill in it.”

No. No we will not.

Everything wrong with the Romney campaign can be found in the Keynote Address of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The stated theme of the speech is the importance of “choosing respect over love.” Did someone give him a copy of Ann’s speech? Because I’m pretty sure I just heard that the greatest virtue in the world is love.

Is someone running this convention? I understand that you cannot control every yahoo given a microphone throughout the day, but this is Day 1 primetime, folks! You don’t show THE ONLY TWO MARQUEE SPEECHES OF THE NIGHT and have them take contradictory positions on the same concept. I’ve said it before, but I really think Eric Fehrnstrom is a performance artist punking the Republican party because there isn’t a lick of effective leadership or vision here.

Putting this screw up aside, this is a Keynote Address, and like Ann Romney’s speech, it carries with it certain goals. The most popular knock on Christie’s address was the absence of Mitt Romney. Well, I’m not sure if that alone is a reason to knock the speech. A Keynote Address doesn’t need the nominee. But if it lacks a full-throated endorsement of the nominee, it better be a full-throated endorsement of the core values of the Party. Yeah, Christie isn’t going to deliver that either. Uh oh.

Christie begins by praising the G.I. Bill for sending his dad to college. Socialist. When the theme of the day is “you didn’t build that,” explaining that the government is responsible for your family’s success seems to run at cross purposes.

Oh no. Christie just praised the Jersey Shore. I’m assuming he means the location and not the show. That doesn’t actually help much.

Now Christie begins the segment of the speech he likes to call, “Who was that bitch talking before me?” by explaining that his mom was right when she taught him that “Love without respect is fleeting.” In other news, I’m pretty sure Christie’s mom was Niccolo Machiavelli.

Christie continues on this theme by explaining that respect is “more important to be popular.” I know this is a huge departure from the Ann Romney speech, but maybe it’s not a terrible move. Given that Ann utterly failed to humanize Mitt, maybe the right tack to take is to admit, “yeah our candidate is less likable than dick Cheney in a Nixon mask but likability is for the weak!”

“The nerve. I says to Ann, ‘how dare you talk about love.'”

Is it just me, or is Christie trying to mimic a Springsteen song in his cadence? It would fit the Jersey theme. Right along with his catty disregard for anything Ann Romney said for the last half hour.

Over the weekend, I explained how Republicans use dissociation to vilify teachers. Chris Christie provides another example. “They believe in teachers unions we believe in teachers.” As though the union is more than a collection of teachers democratically electing their own to leadership positions. But so long as the audience sees them as distinct they can fuck teachers over without feeling like dicks.

As a follow-up that couldn’t have been more delicious if I’d planned it, Jeb Bush just tweeted that Christie is speaking the truth because he’ll put “student’s first.” Republicans, “Welcome to you’re doom

Literally after playing a dissociative semantic game, Christie explains that, “Ideas, not rhetoric attract people to this party.” Karl Rove and Frank Luntz would vociferously disagree, if they hadn’t written that line because it tested better.

“Our ideas are right for America and their ideas have failed America.”

Really? I was alive the whole period from 1980 until now.

Christie just decried the idea of “putting a bureaucrat between an American citizen and her doctor.” Really? I may have had too much to drink because that couldn’t have just happened.

Maybe I spoke too soon, Christie seems like he’s about to talk a little policy. Republicans are out there to tell America the “truth” about unsustainable federal spending. I was ready to hear it, but he didn’t chose to follow it up with “irresponsible Republicans have spent 32 years slashing government revenues for no economic gain while ballooning the budget in an effort to forcibly shut down Medicare and Social Security that would have remained sustainable for decades had it not been for us.” Maybe that’s an unfair characterization of conservative policy…except that it totally isn’t and even Reagan said so in 1980:

[Presidential candidate] John [Anderson] tells us that first we’ve got to reduce spending before we can reduce taxes. Well, if you’ve got a kid that’s extravagant, you can lecture him all you want to about his extravagance. Or you can cut his allowance and achieve the same end much quicker.

Christie says the Republican Party is about “finally” telling people the truth. If anything, the Republican Party has spent 32 years moving from telling the truth to hiding the ball.

This man is unironically suggesting that people need to cut back

Fittingly the tribute to the Greatest Generation follows soon after Christie reminds us of his Party’s firm commitment to dismantling every initiative the Greatest Generation created. “It’s our time to answer that call. What will our children and grandchildren say of us?” I can give you a preview. For those of us in the next generation, Chris, we know people like you have fucked us royally and left us with a crippled American system much more akin to the boom-bust cycle of the late 19th-Century than the venerable powerhouse of the latter-half of the 20th Century. We know that you placed your own well-being ahead of seniors and the subsequent generations and now you demand we coddle you again. If you hear the phone ringing, Chris…just leave it for voicemail please.

Maddow gets the first crack at the speech and points out that it took Christie 1800 words to even mention Mitt Romney. Mid-speech, David Axelrod asked the Twittersphere if Romney would ever come up.

But the counter-argument from conservatives was to claim that Barack Obama’s 2004 Keynote Address was more about Barack Obama than John Kerry.

This is, of course, factually untrue given that the 2004 Keynote talked a great deal more about John Kerry than the 2012 Keynote talked about Mitt Romney. But that’s actually beside the point. There are two possible goals to a Keynote Address.

One is to offer full-throated endorsement of the new nominee. This is traditionally the role of the Nominating speech, but with the decline in convention coverage (and the fact that Marco Rubio’s Nominating speech will be delivered two days after the nomination) many Keynotes echo this role.

The second, and more traditional role is to speak to the spirit of the party as a whole. The party is bigger than one person. The Keynote offers the unifying ethos of the party. Mario Cuomo delivered this in 1984, in one of the last great speeches before the Democratic Party sold out huge chunks of its principles for electability. And this is what large swaths of the 2004 Obama speech delivered. The “Red State-Blue State-United States” device from Obama’s speech touches on what the Democratic Party as a whole seeks to bring to America.

The problem for Chris Christie is that he actually punted on both of these goals. He barely mentioned Mitt Romney and he didn’t give a vision for the Republican Party. Indeed, his speech was largely antithetical to the ethos of the Republican Party. He talked about compromise. Bi-partisanship. Recognizing the limits of working in a “Blue State.” It didn’t rally the crowd to be Republicans.

All it really did is explain how Chris Christie is a success. This is what the conservative counter-argument is missing. Barack Obama ascended to prominence because of a speech about Democratic vision. Chris Christie provided a speech about Chris Christie’s vision.

1 comment for “Chris Christie — Small Politics From a Big Man

  1. L. Avery
    August 29, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    Christie is no Reagan “irresponsible Republicans have spent 32 years slashing government revenues for no economic gain while ballooning the budget in an effort to forcibly shut down Medicare and Social Security that would have remained sustainable for decades had it not been for us.”

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