Him and His Big Mouth

Christie v. Paul

Christie makes a big to be the neocons' man, but also shows his fundamental weakness.

A small but significant step forward for the coming GOP civil war over foreign policy: Yesterday, Chris Christie lit into "this strain of libertarianism" in his party as a "very dangerous thought." Of course, he invoked 9-11, saying he wanted people who talk like to come to New Jersey and sit down with the widows and children and tell them to their faces that we don't need the national security state, etc.

Christie was always the logical choice to be the candidate favored by the boom-boom caucus. Assuming he runs, he and Paul will engage in a massive showdown over this. The fashionable thing to say right now is that the GOP has become a libertarian party on these questions and will tilt toward Paul. But is that really true? I don't think so. I bet if someone polled rock-ribbed conservatives, the neocon point of view would still defeat the libertarian one by at least 60-40.

But then it depends on whether these issues even matter much in 2016, right? If nothing too concerning happens on the foreign-policy front, the issues will remain pretty abstract, in which case Paul can (in the minds of conservative voters) pass the gravitas test. So Christie will be in the position of needing people to be more worried about terrorism than they are now.

Finally, in his remarks, Christie again displayed the quality that seems to me most likely to do him in. He praised Obama: “I want to say that I think both the way President Bush conducted himself and the way President Obama has conducted himself in the main on those types of decisions hasn’t been different because they were right and because we haven’t had another one of those attacks that cost thousands and thousands of lives."

I have a friend, extremely smart about politics, who subscribes to the "stuffed animal theory" of Christie's candidacy--that he has been too chummy with Obama (symbolized by that stuffed animal Christie won him on the midway) and that will prove too big an emotional hurdle for conservatives. And here he praises Obama again, when it was completely unnecessary to do so.

The guy can't help it. Thus the quality, which is not Obama praise but something more general: He just needs to say something that he knows will challenge his audience. He just needs to. That's something a lot of people admire. Arch-conservatives, however, not among them. He's going to keep doing it, at debates and such, and if he is eventually sunk, I think that is what's going to sink him.