“They Don't Want to Hear It”
Christie’s hot mic truth bomb.
“The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.” — H. L. Mencken
Before he took to the stage and dropped out of the race, Chris Christie was caught on a hot mic, talking about the state of the race. Not surprisingly, he was blunt, direct, and he told the truth. “We couldn’t have been any clearer,” he’s overheard saying. “We couldn’t have been any more direct.”
But “people didn’t want to hear it.” So, Christie is out, and we pretty much know what happens now.
For the moment, I’m leaving the horse-race punditry to the smart kids in the pundit class. But it seems appropriate to take a moment and pay our respects:
Right up until the end, Christie — that deeply flawed, infuriating, exasperating, irritating man — was a magnificent beast.
He admitted that he made mistakes and told the truth. In Republican politics these days, that is vanishingly rare. And he did it more forcefully and clearly than any other Republican whose name is not Cheney or Kinzinger.
I’m the only one saying Donald Trump is a liar.
He pits Americans against each other.
His Christmas message to anyone who disagrees with him - “ROT IN HELL.”
He caused a riot on Capitol Hill. He’ll burn America to the ground to help himself.
Every Republican leader says that in private. I’m the only one saying it in public.
What kind of President do we want? A liar, or someone who has the guts to tell the truth?
That’s what made him absolutely toxic in the GOP circa 2024. “I would rather lose by telling the truth than lie in order to win,” Christie said. So he never had a shot, and now he’s gone.
As you know, last week I wrote a piece for the Bulwark urging Christie to hang in there, so I’m disappointed. But as a Never Trumper, I’m used to disappointment, and I’m now bracing for a replay of the GOP’s many capitulations to the low-rent wanna-be Caesar from Queens.
Even so, Christie’s departure was worthy of the rest of his campaign, including (especially?) his refusal to endorse any of his Republican rivals. From a realpolitik POV, that made sense because his votes are likely to go to another non-Trump candidate anyway, and his embrace would have been seen as the אות of Cain by MAGAWorld.
But Christie was also drawing a bright red line: He cited the moment in the Milwaukee debate when the candidates were asked if they would support Trump as GOP nominee even if he was a convicted felon. Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, and the others all raised their hands.
For Christie, that is disqualifying.
“Anyone who is unwilling to say (Trump) is unfit to be president of the United States,” Christie said, “is unfit themselves to be president of the United States.”
“I will never raise my hand to say it’s OK to have a convicted felon as the president of the United States.”
Last night, he posed this stark challenge:
I want you to imagine for a second that Jefferson and Hamilton and Adams and Washington and Franklin were sitting here tonight.
Do you think they could imagine that the country they risked their lives to create would actually be having a conversation about whether a convicted criminal should be president of the United States?
I can’t tell you how many people in New Hampshire have asked me why isn’t there a law against that?
The answer is because nobody ever thought that someone would have the audacity to run for president as a criminal and they never thought that any American electorate would actually support it.
It’s not their fault that they didn’t put it in the Constitution, along with 35 years old and a natural born American citizen. They didn’t think, let’s throw in here “and not a criminal”.
They thought maybe we’d get that part.
We’re going to show them now whether we do or we don’t in the next ten months.
Do we get it, or don’t we?
Christie was not only saying no to Trump; he was saying no to a political party that would embrace Trump. And he doesn’t want any part of that.
Christie also recognized another hard reality: Nikki Haley is not the one we have been waiting for. On the hot mic, he’s heard saying, “She’s gonna get smoked, and you and I both know it. She’s not up to this.’
And, he’s right.
He knows that after Trump seizes the nomination, Haley and the others will take the walk of shame and endorse him. Christie doesn’t want to be part of that, either.
On Tuesday, he explained to one voter: “Let’s say I dropped out of the race right now and I supported Nikki Haley. And then three months from now, four months from now, when you’re ready to go to the convention, she comes out as his vice president. What will I look like? What will all the people who supported her at my behest look like?”
So, no endorsement now. Or later.
But Christie did make one final commitment: “I want to promise you this, I am going to make sure that in no way do I enable Donald Trump to ever be president of the United States again….”
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Meanwhile…. we got a faux debate and faux townhall. Neither were edifying experiences.
For the record, I want to confess that I watched neither of them (instead, I caught up on some episodes of Bad Sisters, which, I can guarantee you, was much more enjoyable.)
Tim, however, did watch the “townhall,” and you can read his summary here: “Trump And Fox: So Happy Together … Again.”
ON WEDNESDAY NIGHT, two of Fox News’s “straight news” reporters, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, sat beside the disgraced former president listening to his Catskills standup bit and giggling like a couple of undergrads after a 5mg weed gummy.
“What about any of the people who you’ve run against, would you be open to mending fences with them?” MacCallum asked Donald Trump, not so pointedly.
“Oh sure I will, I will. I’ve already started to like Christie better,” Trump replied, referencing his former opponent dropping out of the race hours earlier. To someone unattuned to Trump’s wiles, this line might have sounded petty and predictable.
But in this room, on this network, it landed.
This little quip at Christie’s expense elicited uproarious laughter from the crowd and a husky “Ah heh ha” guffaw from Baier. MacCallum was able to contain her laughter but turned toward the camera with an open-mouthed smile, throwing her hair back to take in the moment.
Nicholas Grossman watched the DeSantis-Haley food fight on CNN.
Wednesday night’s GOP debate, the fifth, was down to Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, the last survivors of the not-Trump subprimary. It wasn’t quite a broadcast from another dimension where Trump couldn’t run, because his name came up—and both candidates weakly chastised him for not being there.
Mark Hertling: Defending American Values
On Wednesday’s podcast, I was joined by retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling. We discuss Trump’s attitude toward the military, Lloyd Austin’s hospitalization, the state of the war in Ukraine, the tinderbox in the Mideast, and how the army is dealing with extremism in the ranks.
You can listen to the whole thing here. Or watch us on YouTube.
BONUS: George Conway: “Trump will spend the rest of his life in jail”
The Congressional GOP Melts Down. Again.
As Thomas Aquinas might have said: Holy shit.
In case you missed it: a House Oversight Committee descended from chaos to farce after Hunter Biden unexpectedly showed up, and the GOP leadership suffered a humiliating defeat on the House floor when the Freedom Caucus revolted against the fifth-string speaker’s attempts to keep the government open.
All of this helps explain why the trickle of retirements has become a torrent.
Mike Pence’s brother, Greg, was the latest Republican to bail out of Congress, joining a growing list of his colleagues who want no part of the ongoing clusterf*ck.
Pence is the fourth Republican to announce this month plans to retire from Congress – out of a dozen retiring House Republicans overall.
Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.), Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) and Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.), all of whom have been in Congress more than a decade and are senior members of their respective committees, aren't running this year.
Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah) also announced this month he will run for Senate rather than his House seat, and Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) plans to retire earlier than expected.
They join a much longer list of Republicans who have headed to the exits in the Era of Trump. Here’s a flashback to what I wrote for Politico about Anthony Gonzalez’s decision to step away in 2021: “Why Sane Republicans Are Purging Themselves.”
Gonzalez didn’t quit because he feared he couldn’t win, but because it just wasn’t worth it anymore. Winning, it turns out, is not winning if the prize feels a lot more like a loss.
“You could fight your butt off and win this thing, but are you really going to be happy?” he asked. “And the answer is, probably not.”
This was the key to his decision to self-purge: He could spend a year fighting off merde-slinging deplorables, only to win another two years sitting in a caucus next to Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), Paul Gosar (R- Ariz.) and the other avatars of Trumpism.
Defeat, even before a single vote is cast, might have been disappointing. It might even look to some like a conspicuous lack of competitive mettle. But that assumes the outcome is in doubt — which it isn’t. The Republican Party is already lost. And victory meant two more years trapped in a hellscape of crazified school board meetings, Trump rallies, My Pillow Guy insanity, Newsmax and Fox News hits, and a caucus run by Kevin McCarthy, a man without any principle beyond the acquisition of power. [Editor’s Note: Since then, it’s has gotten worse. Much worse.]
So Gonzalez decided to become the latest Republican to walk away from it all.
Trump’s Lawyers Argue Biden Can Assassinate Him
One could go on and on with the absurd lengths of the hypothetical, but why bother? To state the logical consequence is to refute the illogical premise. Trump wants to be a king, immune from and above the law. But if he is immune, so is Biden.
I would never actually advocate that Biden take advantage of such a ruling and send in the Delta Force. If only because I don’t want to wake up to the Secret Service knocking at my door.
But what is the law coming to when a former president can seriously argue for his plenary right to kill his opponents and yet still be considered a leading contender for election? The mind boggles and the rule of law shudders on its weakened foundations.