On Political Books

July/August 2012 The Ascent of Chris Christie

George W. Bush nicknamed him “Big Boy.” Will Mitt Romney call him “my running mate”?

By Laura M. Colarusso

Whether he meant it or not at the time, Christie said he would never run for office again, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t still be involved in politics. He volunteered his legal services to the 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign and raised, with the help of a longtime friend, more than $500,000 for their coffers. The effort didn’t go unnoticed. When it came time to hand out appointments, Bush offered the position of U.S. attorney to Christie—whom he had nicknamed “Big Boy”—despite the fact that Christie had little prosecutorial experience. During his seven-year tenure as a federal prosecutor, Christie became infamous for his perp walks, parading dozens of corrupt politicians in front of the cameras to show off his tough-on-crime credentials. He amassed more than a thousand convictions, bringing down child pornographers, violent gang members, and crooked politicians. (His record against corrupt public servants was more than 130 convictions to zero acquittals.) Christie’s office squeezed a $311 million settlement out of hip and knee replacement companies that had been paying off doctors to use their products. It was this record as a federal prosecutor that most cite as his main qualification to be the chief executive of New Jersey. Of course, it also helped that he wasn’t Jon Corzine, who had become an anathema even to members of his own party, thanks to an $8 billion budget shortfall and a difficult relationship with the legislative leadership.

The best part of the book is the meticulously researched glimpse into Christie’s upbringing. The governor grew up with two siblings in a strict home in a well-to-do suburb of Newark even though the family had limited means. All five Christies shared one bathroom and rarely went on vacation. Christie shared a small room with his younger brother, Todd, and was an athlete all throughout high school, eventually becoming captain of the baseball team.

Christie’s Republican father and Democratic mother were both strong-willed and quick-tempered, which led to many arguments over the years. Their incongruent political philosophies may explain why Chris Christie has an independent streak that riles the party faithful at times and could spoil his chances for higher office. Even though he pulled the Garden State out of regional climate change initiatives, Christie has acknowledged that global warming is both real and caused by humans. He nominated a Muslim man, Sohail Mohammed, for a state judgeship. When conservative critics accused Mohammed of following sharia law, Christie defended his choice, calling the criticism “crap.” He has also staked out a moderate position on illegal immigration, saying it’s not a crime to be in the United States without the proper documentation and advocating for a path to citizenship.

Whether Christie will become a force in national politics remains to be seen, but it looks like his spot in New Jersey is certainly secure for the next few years, if recent polling is any guide. Which is good for Christie, who has said he’s not ready to leave, because he still has a long list of things to do as governor. But wherever he ends up, as Ingle and Symons note, whether you love him or hate him, at least he won’t be boring.


If you are interested in purchasing this book, we have included a link for your convenience.


Laura M. Colarusso is a reporter at Newsweek and the Daily Beast. She has previously reported for the Boston Globe, New Jersey Monthly , and the Newark Star-Ledger.

Comments

  • sceptic on July 30, 2012 9:44 AM:

    One thing not considered is Christie's potential appeal outside NJ. While his brash, smart ass persona plays well in NJ, it would be the kiss of death in the South. He is the embodiment of the loud, big mouthed, rude, know-it-all Yankee that white southerners absolutely despise. This fact will not be lost on them.

  • cwolf on July 30, 2012 2:01 PM:

    I like what Colbert called him,,,
    Beanbag Chair.

  • cwolf on July 30, 2012 2:06 PM:

    On a heavier note, I'd say christie is roached as a nationwide candidate after his "...heated verbal altercation right on the boardwalk..."
    See Video here.

    http://www.tmz.com/2012/07/06/chris-christie-governor-jersey-shore-video-boardwalk-fight/

    The political ads write themselves after this.