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Chris Christie, New Jersey-ness, and My Personal Problem with Mitt Romney

This one goes right to the top of the Wish I’d Written It pile: In the latest Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg hangs [1] out with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at a Bruce Springsteen concert in Newark.

[2]

In the piece, Christie evinces many of the things — unbridled passion, outspokenness, and, yes, rudeness — I love about the place I’ll always consider my home state, no matter how long I live in the Old Dominion.

A few choice snippets:

Hey, Governor, where’s your pillow?” someone from an upper deck screams. It is the sort of taunt he should obviously ignore, but Christie is incapable of being anything other than his obstreperous self. He screams back, “I didn’t fall asleep! How could you even believe that?” He turns to me. “How could they believe that? I was meditating. It’s a very spiritual song.” I believe him. I’ve spent much of my life as a pro-Springsteen extremist (defined here as someone who has spent an unconscionable amount of money on Springsteen tickets and also refuses to contemplate the notion that Bob Dylan might be the better writer), and I have met very few people who love Springsteen the way Christie loves Springsteen.

And:

You want to know what he’s saying?,” Christie asks. “He’s telling us that rich people like him are f*cking over poor people like us in the audience, except that us in the audience aren’t poor, because we can afford to pay 98 bucks to him to see his show. That’s what he’s saying.”

Wait a second, this is Bruce Springsteen we’re talking about, the guy you adore?

“I compartmentalize,” Christie says.

And:

“There’s a split in the union movement, between the private sector and the public sector,” he answered. “The private sector is where they’re having huge unemployment. You think they want to pay higher property taxes and bloated benefits for their public-sector union brothers who don’t want to make any sacrifices? Those are not the guys Bruce is writing about. He’s writing about the carpenter and the pipe fitter, the bricklayer.” He pauses for effect. “And let me tell you something. Those guys voted for me.”

As Goldberg renders him, Christie isn’t all bluster. He has a surprisingly subtle take on Springsteen (whose body of work for me comes in second only to the Stones) as well as the creative life cycle of artists of his stature:

“There is some of his work that is dour and down,” he says, “but the thing that attracted me to his music is how aspirational it is — aspirational to success, to fun, to being a better person, to figuring out how to make your life better — and you can’t say that about most people’s music. They become successful and then they become self-consumed and then boring and narcissistic.”

Christie seems genuinely wounded that Springsteen more or less shuns him. On the one hand, it’s kind of pathetic that a man who holds a constitutionally powerful office and is successful himself (if not by Springsteen standards) seeks the affection, or at least the attention, of a celebrity.

On the other hand:

The depth of Christie’s love is noteworthy in part because most politicians — certainly most politicians of national stature — are either too dull or too monomaniacally careerist to maintain fervent emotional relationships with artists. And when they do, the objects of their affection resemble them ideologically or dispositionally—think of the loyalty that Pat Leahy, the liberal senator from Vermont, has for the Grateful Dead. Christie’s passionate attachment to Bruce Springsteen is something different, and much more complicated.

As someone with attachments [3] as passionate and fundamentally irrational as Christie’s, I get it. I have an instant affinity for people who have such interior attachments, which compete with the urge to succeed professionally and make money. And for the record, I think Springsteen is acting like a jerk. If Springsteen, like Dylan, had a solid record of forswearing personal involvement in partisan politics, that would be one thing. But that horse left the barn a long time ago. I see no reason why Springsteen can’t at least acknowledge Christie — even if only a “Gov. Christie, I hope you’re listening” shout-out during the brief PSA section of a show he knows the governor is attending.

Personally speaking, I don’t want Christie to hitch himself to the Romney wagon this year. Temperamentally, the two of them represent about as stark a contrast as two politicians could. Something my grandfather used to say has stuck with me as an adult: I don’t trust that guy. He doesn’t drink or curse. He never has any fun. As I see it, this sentiment falls somewhere between what Edmund Burke meant, and what is commonly meant, by the word “prejudice.”

This has nothing to do, I should add, with the phenomenon of a politician seeming more “human” because of character flaws, like a history of infidelity. As far as we can tell from the outside, Christie seems like he’s as good a husband and father as Romney is.

In a word, Chris Christie is Jersey.

Just like, as Mark Bowden describes [4] him, Ed Rendell is Philly, the other end of the axis of my homeplace:

When I thought he had been ducking my calls while I was reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer, and spotted him from the fourth floor window of the iconic newspaper building marching in a parade down Broad Street, I raced down and caught up to him in mid-strut. He had no security detail or protective phalanx of aides. He greeted me cheerily, and shot holes in my story with profane gusto all the way to City Hall, never missing a wave or a blown kiss.

These are my kind of guys. They inhabit a certain paradigm in my mind. It doesn’t make me proud to say this, but the part of me that feels comfortable with them is the reason why Mitt Romney will always seem like an alien to me.

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#1 Pingback By Jersey’s Boss and The Boss [UPDATED] — The League of Ordinary Gentlemen On June 21, 2012 @ 2:41 pm

[…] Scott Galupo’s response to Goldberg’s article pretty much nails what I was trying to get at in my second paragraph: […]

#2 Comment By tbraton On June 21, 2012 @ 3:27 pm

“Something my grandfather used to say has stuck with me as an adult: I don’t trust that guy. He doesn’t drink or curse. He never has any fun. As I see it, this sentiment falls somewhere between what Edmund Burke meant, and what is commonly meant, by the word “prejudice.” ”

I am reminded of something my grandfather (both of whom died before I was born) might have said: “Never trust a fat man. He can’t control his appetite.” We all don’t share the same prejudices. Christie might be fine for New Jersey (speaking of bloated), but I don’t think he would be a good pick for Romney. Since one of Romney’s major tasks if he is elected President will be to pare back the federal government, I don’t think Christie would make a good spokesman for the cause. Besides, the chances of Romney’s carrying NJ is pretty slim, so Christie can’t help him there. If Romney were to carry NJ, we would be talking historic landslide election, which I don’t think is likely.

#3 Comment By Scott Galupo On June 21, 2012 @ 4:44 pm

tbraton,

To be sure, I agree that “We all don’t share the same prejudices.” Burkean prejudices aren’t universal. That’s what makes them Burkean!

I don’t want Romney to choose Christie, either. But that’s mostly because I like Christie and despise Romney.

#4 Comment By MKS On June 21, 2012 @ 10:08 pm

Romney/Christie, or Romney/Rubio, or Romney/Paul, or whoever, as long as it is not Obama/Biden, or Obama/Clinton, or Clinton/X, or Democrat Y/Democrat Z. Anything but a Democrat for President.

#5 Comment By Dylan On June 22, 2012 @ 12:55 am

This is one of the more enjoyable interviews with a public figure I’ve read in a while. I agree that Bruce is being a jerk here. Christie is clearly a genuine fan if he’s been to 129 shows and knows the words to “Bishop Danced.” He isn’t Ronald Reagan dropping Bruce’s name at a campaign stop. As much as I love him, Springsteen does often come across as a bit of a phony, at least when it comes down to his politics, which he’s chosen to be very open about. Whatever one thinks of Christie (I have no strong opinions being a resident of NY, but my gf is a school teacher and has some issues with him), it’s obvious he respects Springsteen. And if Bruce really wants to be the Jersey Boy/Common Man Representative, you’d think he’d be willing to at least have a civilized conversation with the governor. In fact, if he were really confident in his ideas about how things could be done better, you’d think he’d relish the opportunity to express them to the governor in what would most likely be a public forum that would reach more people than just his fans, a good deal of whom, as was noted in the article, get bored and fidgety when he starts in on one of his PSAs.

That said, I was at the show at the Prudential. Limousine liberal posturing aside, the guy’s a phenomenon.