Chris Christie fibbed about his record. But since he's not the presumed frontrunner for the GOP nomination any more, most of the media never blinked.
It's a reminder of a decades-long fact of life when it comes to the media and reporting on Establishment Republicans. If you’re a RINO - they love ya. Big time. From long-ago RINOs like 1940's era New York Governor Tom Dewey (once praised as a tough prosecutor and GOP moderate) to mid-1960's GOP New York mayor John Lindsay (repeatedly celebrated for his handsome looks, style and - but of course - his liberalism as exemplified in coverage like these Life magazine covers here and here.)
Until and unless, of course, you actually get nominated for president -- in which case they will turn on a dime and rip your political guts out. (Dewey was nominated twice, quickly becoming the derided "little man on the wedding cake" and in a Harry Truman attack played up by the media of the day, one of the "special privilege boys." ) Suffice to say, Dewey and Lindsay are far from alone in this RINO-media game. Names like Eisenhower, Ford, Bush, Dole, McCain and Romney have been players.
But it's 2016. So let’s turn to Governor Christie and his fib. While Donald Trump and Ted Cruz were having their rumble in the debate jungle the other night, while busily fighting for scraps of attention there was also this direct accusation made to Christie by Senator Marco Rubio. It was reported thusly by Time magazine:
“The morning after the first debate of 2016, Rubio told supporters in Derry, N.H., that he would only nominate judges who would promise a strict reading of the Constitution. Rubio said that put him at odds with Christie, one of his chief rivals in New Hampshire.
‘One of the things the President is going to do is nominate Supreme Court Justices, maybe as many as four,’ Rubio told his crowd. ‘We need to appoint Supreme Court Justices that understand that the Constitution is not a living, breathing document. It is supposed to be interpreted and applied as originally intended.’ Rubio held up Sotomayor as an example of a judge he would not nominate.
Christie has firmly denied he ever backed President Obama’s nomination of Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. “I didn’t voice support for Sonia Sotomayor,” he told CBS’s Face the Nation last weekend. He repeated that during Thursday night’s debate on Fox Business Network. ‘Let’s set the facts straight. First of all, I never supported Sonia Sotomayor.’”
Got that? Rubio, on the debate stage and afterwards, accused Christie of supporting Obama’s nomination of the decidedly left-wing Sotomayor for the Supreme Court, and Christie has flatly denied it, saying “I never supported Sonia Sotomayor.”
As it happened, I had investigated this the other week, after the supposedly conservative New Hampshire Union Leader had endorsed Christie. I specifically checked to see if Christie - a one-time U.S. Attorney with a background on all things legal and judicial - was on record about the Sotomayor nomination. And I found this from 2009 at NJ.com, the online version of the Newark Star Ledger. The headline read:
GOP gov. candidate Chris Christie says he supports Sonia Sotomayor for U.S. Supreme Court
And the very first paragraph of the story was this:
“Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie today announced he is supporting President Obama's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court, even though he says she ‘would not have been my choice.’”
The story went on to say:
“The announcement came following the conclusion of Senate confirmation hearings on Sotomayor, who would be the first Latina justice on the nation's highest court. It also came days after Democratic State Committee chairman blistered Christie for ‘engaging in a partisan attack’ for saying he would not have chosen Sotomayor during a radio interview in May.
In a statement issued today, Christie said he would not have chosen Sotomayor, but that ‘I support her appointment to the Supreme Court and urge the Senate to keep politics out of the process and confirm her nomination.’
‘After watching and listening to Judge Sotomayor's performance at the confirmation hearings this week, I am confident that she is qualified for the position of Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court,’ Christie said. ‘Elections have consequences. One of those consequences are judicial appointments. While Judge Sotomayor would not have been my choice, President Obama has used his opportunity to fill a seat on the Supreme Court by choosing a nominee who has more than proven her capability, competence and ability.’”
So. To be crystal clear, here is Chris Christie the gubernatorial candidate on Sotomayor in 2009:
“I support her appointment to the Supreme Court and urge the Senate to keep politics out of the process and confirm her nomination.”
And here is Chris Christie the GOP presidential candidate on Sotomayor in 2016:
“I didn’t voice support for Sonia Sotomayor,. Let’s set the facts straight. First of all, I never supported Sonia Sotomayor..”
As is plainly seen, Marco Rubio had Christie pegged 100% correctly. And Christie, on the debate stage and on Face the Nation, flatly lied about his support for one of the most extreme left-wingers on the U.S.Supreme Court, a tea leaf into the kind of thinking that would guide a President Christie when it came to nominating both Supreme Court Justices and federal judges in general.
But the point here? How has Chris Christie been treated by the media? Answer? As long as he was only a vaguely potential GOP presidential candidate, as long as he was a RINO governor of New Jersey who did things like support Sotomayor for the Supreme Court and hug President Obama on the eve of the 2012 election - Chris Christie got fabulous press. Here are examples of the media-RINO romance at work.
Early in 2013, as Christie headed into his re-election year in New Jersey’s governor’s race, over at the Daily Beast Jon Avlon was writing a valentine to his favorite RINO of the moment. After trashing the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) for not inviting the un-conservative Christie, Avlon wrote:
“On the other side of the GOP divide are figures with a demonstrated ability and determination to reach beyond the base and govern in a way that’s both effective and inclusive.
Chris Christie has become the symbol for the latter side, and for this, along with a multitude of other alleged sins, he was notably not invited to speak at CPAC, despite the fact that he’s one of the most popular Republicans in the country.”
In the immediate aftermath of his landslide re-election as governor in 2013, Time famously ran this cover story of Christie, his corpulent image in silhouette. The title: 'The Elephant in the Room."
The magazine brimmed with stories about how this moderate, very-Establishment Republican could have such a positive effect on those neanderthal conservatives in the GOP. The sub-headlines on the front cover featured these three:
How Chris Christie Can Win Over the GOP
What the Party Needs
What His Rivals Will use Against Him
The second article - “What the Party Needs” - was authored by MSNBC host and ex-Florida Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough, a leading moderate in the party. Indeed, as noted here in the Washington Examiner in the aftermath of the Christie 2013 re-election Scarborough’s MSNBC show Morning Joe was filled with pundits lavishing praise on Christie. He was a “winner” said Politico’s Mike Allen, and “effectively the leader of the Republican Party.” MSNBC’s Chris Matthews was “pointing out that Christie acted like a real person with blood in him.” And Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report gushed:
"There is, like, testosterone coming out of every pore of his body, and I can't wait to see in Iowa and New Hampshire some Tea Party type calling him a liberal and Christie reaching down the guy's throat and pulling his lungs out. I can't wait to see that. I will pay money to see that."
So what happened? Why is Christie lagging so badly in a presidential primary race he was supposed to dominate?
Precisely because of all his fabulous press - won in part exactly because he did things like support the liberal Sotomayor for the Supreme Court and literally embrace Obama during a Hurricane Sandy photo op tour on the 2012 election eve - Christie met the ultimate fate of the RINO potential president early on. That would be the “Bridgegate” scandal, in which a couple of his senior aides were accused of effectively shutting down traffic on the George Washington Bridge to punish a local politician who was deemed less than supportive of The Elephant in the Room. To this day, there is not a scintilla of evidence that Christie himself knew of this idiocy. No matter. He was savaged as if this local imbroglio was this century's Watergate.
In fact, his mere supposed-dominance of the then-far distant 2016 presidential race resulted in an earlier version of the kind of media treatment once dished to earlier RINO presidential candidates who also used to receive a glowing treatment in the liberal media - until they were nominated and became a perceived threat to the liberal agenda. John McCain and Mitt Romney - once media darlings, suddenly became respectively the cranky old white guy who was (per the front page of the New York Times) having a secret affair with a lobbyist. Romney was transformed from moderate Republican governor of Massachusetts who created “RomneyCare”, the role model for ObamaCare, into a literal gay-bashing jerk who once gave a classmate an involuntary haircut in high school (per the front page of the Washington Post) and was responsible for the death of a steelworker’s wife (per the Obama campaign) because one of the companies run by Romney’s Bain Capital had not provided health insurance for the guy’s wife.
This, in short, is how the media plays the game with RINO Republicans. Build them up to potential presidential status - but when they become a serious political threat to an actual liberal (the 2008 and 2012 Obama in the case of McCain and Romney and Hillary in this cycle in Christie’s case) - then tear them apart.
So. As of this moment, Chris Christie is trailing badly in the polls while the real elephants in the room that is the 2016 GOP race turn out to be Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Christie is where he is because he played by the liberal rules and did things like endorse Sotomayor - and is now paying the price with the conservative base of the GOP, feeling the need to just flatly lie and deny his endorsement when Rubio presses his case.
Meanwhile Trump and Cruz, who have never won Christie-style lavish press as candidates or, in Cruz's case as a sitting senator, are soaring in part because both men refuse to play the liberal media game. To the contrary, Trump has made it a point to go after any and every media personality and outlet from Fox’s Megyn Kelly to Serge Kovaleski of the New York Times on to CNN, NBC, CNBC, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and so on. Cruz as well is out there on debate stages going after CNBC and the New York Times, among others.
Is there a media lesson in all this for GOP candidates? Yes.
Trump and Cruz get the lesson of the media-RINO game, but will the RINOs abroad in the land of the GOP Establishment ever learn the lesson? No. Are you kidding? RINOs need the media to get them to the political starting gate - even if the very same media will set out to hobble and then destroy them once they are out of that gate.
They never learn. Shocker.