Political Animal


November 29, 2011 10:00 AM Why Chris Christie’s whining is wrong

By Steve Benen

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) threw an odd tantrum yesterday, blasting President Obama for the failure of the congressional super-committee. I ordinarily wouldn’t much care, but since the media loves Chris Christie, his complaints generated a fair amount of attention, and it’s probably worth taking a moment to set the record straight.

Calling Obama “a bystander in the Oval Office,” the outspoken New Jersey governor said the White House spent the weekend tossing out a whole lot of “spin” about the supercommittee’s inability to come to an agreement before the Nov. 23 deadline.

“I was angry this weekend, listening to the spin coming out of the administration, about the failure of the supercommittee, and that the president knew it was doomed for failure, so he didn’t get involved. Well then what the hell are we paying you for?” Christie said during a press conference in Camden, N.J. “It’s doomed for failure so I’m not getting involved? Well, what have you been doing, exactly?”

Part of the problem here is that Christie isn’t quite as smart as he thinks he is, and bombast can only go so far in covering up ignorance.

Did the administration say the president kept his distance from the talks because Obama knew the process was doomed to fail? No, the governor appears to have made this up. As for what the president has been “doing, exactly,” Obama’s the one who’s offered Republican lawmakers a series of overly-generous debt reduction plans — to the chagrin of his own party — only to see the GOP reject every proposal.

Is Christie not aware of this? If so, why did he try to deceive the public yesterday? If not, shouldn’t he have gotten his facts straight before popping off to the press?

The New Jersey governor added that he’s “astonished” that the president “refuses” to just call people into a room and solve problems. This is the kind of criticism the media finds compelling, but which is nevertheless idiotic.

The president has tried every negotiating tactic that exists to get congressional Republicans to work on finding solutions. Obama has tried hands-on talks; he’s tried keeping his distance. The president has tried hard sells and soft sells, directly and indirectly. He’s made private appeals and public appeals. He’s made arguments based on policy, polls, and principles. He’s tried charm offensives, combativeness, and everything in between. He’s made partisan, bipartisan, tripartisan, and nonpartisan arguments, all in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, GOP leaders will be open to good-faith compromise.

And yet, nothing has worked. Nothing.

In the case of the super-committee, Republicans simply weren’t willing to compromise. They’ve admitted as much. GOP members of the panel made demands that no sensible person could possibly consider reasonable, and ultimately, weren’t intended to work towards a resolution anyway.

Does Chris Christie, or anyone else, think Republicans were going to be responsible because the president — the chief executive they loathe with a passion, and whose presidency they seem so desperate to destroy, that they’ll sabotage the nation’s interests — asked them to? Is there any scenario in which GOP officials were going to accept new tax revenue after the president asked really nicely?

The New Jersey governor seems to believe a debt deal would come together if Republicans and the president simply sat down for candid conversations. Given that Obama has already tried this repeatedly, without success, anyone who believes such stupidity just hasn’t been paying close enough attention.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • DAY on November 29, 2011 10:08 AM:

    Republican Politics has become a Facts Free Zone.

  • withay on November 29, 2011 10:11 AM:

    He is merely auditioning to be Newt's running mate. This is his way to get back in the sights of those who have not been paying enough attention to him since he so decisively declared his non-candidacy.

  • martin on November 29, 2011 10:12 AM:

    Is Christie not aware of this? If so, why did he try to deceive the public yesterday? If not, shouldn’t he have gotten his facts straight before popping off to the press?

    Assuming these aren't rhetorical questions, the answer is: GOP Talking Points.

    They don't have to be real and as long as they are said in unison, the press sees no reason to fact check them.

    Works every time.

    Mr Captcha says he's a vinger artist

  • c u n d gulag on November 29, 2011 10:12 AM:

    It could be low blood sugar!

    Maybe he's upset because after Thanksgiving, where he personally was responsible for Butterballs stocks going up because of his personal consumption, kept several counties in Idaho solvent because of their contributions to his mountains of mashed potato's, made gravy makers sweat trying to make enough to fill the lake of gravy that he wanted, and kept thousands of wheat farmers in the black when they made bread for his stuffing, either his wife or someone on his staff has decided to ration his food intake, lest he explode like Mr. Creosote from Monty Pythons, "The Meaning of Life."

    So, that's my guess - either low blood sugar, or hunger pangs that would make Bangledeshi's blush.

  • SYSPROG on November 29, 2011 10:13 AM:

    It wasn't an 'odd tantrum'...the RNC gave him his talking points and the lap dog dutifully went out and did it. He is a moronic petulant fool and their base eats it up. LOOK AT THESE PEOPLE! Liars and buffoons. Keep it up guys.

  • Bo on November 29, 2011 10:17 AM:

    The Goopers are petulant children who -- when left to their own devices without adult supervision -- get themselves into terrible jams and then blame the adults for not monitoring and disciplining their churlish behavior. Never mind that they told the adults to leave them alone . . . it's still the grown-up's fault as far as their concerned.

  • c u n d gulag on November 29, 2011 10:18 AM:

    Newt AND Christie?

    Talk about tipping the balance of power!

    What will they practice?
    'Teeter-totter Diplomacy?'
    Where with those two on one side, they'll force China to make deals with at least three other nations just to to balance the weight.

    And I'd love to hear those two tell the rest of us how we "Need to tighten our belts."


  • Holly W on November 29, 2011 10:19 AM:

    Guess it needs to be pointed out again: the Super Committee "failure" doesn't affect the debt by one penny. The only thing it does is revert to a different formula for the same amount of debt reduction. That the Republicans were unable to get the formula to include more tax cuts for the rich isn't Obama's failure.

  • John Dillinger on November 29, 2011 10:21 AM:

    The President should invite Governor Anthony Soprano Teletubby to the White House for the next round of budget negotiations. Even offer to airlift, I mean helicopter, him over from Union Station to Pennsylvania Avenue, where they can use a limo to bring him up the White House driveway.

  • Mac on November 29, 2011 10:24 AM:

    Problem is, folks, is that I've got Democratic friends who feel the same way as Christie. It's a very pernicious meme. I've asked them what Obama should have done, and they say, "I don't know, but it's his job to figure it out, not mine." That's the kind of mentality that gets someone voted out of office, and it's been the Republican plan going on 2 years now. Keep up the good fight Steve!

  • bigtuna on November 29, 2011 10:33 AM:

    Somehow the meme has to shift. In the "old" days, there was a certain respect for the office of president, even if there were political divisions: Re: Tip ONeill and Reagan; Ted Kennedy and Bush II and NCLB, etc.

    Perhaps these were mistakes, but until proven to be pure assholes, dems tend to defer to the fact that the president, no matter the party, was duly elected - or, "elected" as in the 2000 case.

    Republicans mouth a few nice words, but were happy to humiliate Clinton [ see, Gingrich, Newt; synonym for asshole; partisan lying sack of shit], and Obama. Yes, there are tings of racism, but Republicans in their current form do not wish to govern; do not respect the structure of their institutions [holds, threats of filibusters, etc] ; do not respect the sturcture and nature of the other branches - judiciary or president.

    So Obama has the double whammy - guity of both PWBD and PWBB...

  • berttheclock on November 29, 2011 10:36 AM:

    "Mourning" Joe was drooling over the comments by Christie.

  • T2 on November 29, 2011 10:36 AM:

    at the end of the day, Christie is just another Republican, taking his orders from the Koch Bros. or some other puppeteer with Billions. So he spouts a Party Line once in a while between meals. One thing about Christie, he really is fat. It's interesting, though, that as soon as the SuperC failure was assured (the day they appointed the members) it's been the GOP scheming to override the mandated cuts and the President saying "no, that's what you agreed to". Obama, I think, drew the GOPers into the Briar Patch with this SuperC - something they just figured out last week.

  • Texas Aggie on November 29, 2011 10:37 AM:

    This was a press conference. Did any of the assembled press ask him about his "talking points?" What exactly did they ask him about when he finished talking?

  • daveminnj on November 29, 2011 10:46 AM:

    you don't really think christie is trying to engage on the merits, do you?

    he's a creation of karl rove! they always try to make the republican governor of nj into a modern day teddy roosevelt and then trot him/her on the national stage
    as the most special thing ever. it happened with kaine,
    it happened with whitman, it's happening with christie.

    because they get extra validity being a northeast republican governor-they get trotted out for scumbag duty. dirty work that would stick to any other republican.

  • RT on November 29, 2011 10:46 AM:

    It's time to remind everyone why there was a super committee in the first place: the House teabaggers wanted the federal government to default. GOP intransigence then, GOP intransigence now. The only difference is that the super committee deal made the latest GOP intransigence less harmful.

  • PTate in MN on November 29, 2011 10:54 AM:

    "Obama is a bystander in the Oval Office,""

    My google BS translator decodes this as dogwhistle for "blacks are lazy."

    Christie's comments have nothing to do with the failure of the Super-Committee and everything to do with neutralizing political fallout. He knows well that the Republicans are despicable, intransigent ignoramuses. But the Republicans are in a pickle. When 63% of Americans wanted the super-committee to raise taxes on the rich, and it is very clear that Republicans not only refuse to raise taxes but actually want to cut them more, your best strategy is to distract voters.

    In many ways we are hearing the following Q&A in the US right now: "Why are Republicans incompetent? Why are we sabotaging America's economy? Why are we such whores for the uber-rich??" (awkward silence...) "Oh, look!! Be scared!!! There's a black, lazy, socialist Muslim in the White House!!! We're white! Trust us!"

  • RT on November 29, 2011 10:55 AM:

    It's time to remind everyone why there was a super committee in the first place: the House teabaggers wanted the federal government to default. GOP intransigence then, GOP intransigence now. The only difference is that the super committee deal made the latest GOP intransigence less harmful.

  • RT on November 29, 2011 10:58 AM:

    Sorry for the duplicate post.

  • Gregory on November 29, 2011 11:10 AM:

    “I was angry this weekend"

    Hey, look! Christies rant contained one nugget of truth!

    But of course Christie -- and Republicans in general -- have to lie about the supercommittee failure. They have to lie because their own bad faith was as obvious as it was outrageous. (Getting the media to air, for free, focus-group-tested put-down of Obama is just a bonus, of course.)

    As Steve pointed out, the actual history here is a matter of record, and the truth of the matter not a question of opinion. The question is, will the so-called "liberal media" point out that the Republican spin is at odds with the public record, or will they simply do their usual lazy "he-said, she-said" job of quoting competing narratives -- one objectively true, in this case, and one objectively false -- and just "leave it there"?

    That's the question, all right. Don't answer it, because I think we all know already.

  • smintheus on November 29, 2011 11:10 AM:

    Didn't Republicans warn Obama not to meddle in the supercommittee's negotiations, telling the Dems that Obama's involvement would just politicize things?

  • Bob on November 29, 2011 11:16 AM:

    It's not all that hard to find the recent photographic proof that Obama was engaging republicans in discussions about the debt issue. See, for example, this story from Fox News for heaven's sake:


    Let's see: Boehner, Obama, McConnell, Durbin. Looks like a bipartisan crew to me.

  • Josef K on November 29, 2011 11:19 AM:

    Exactly how much more this is idiocy is the American electorate expected to take before there's a very, very violent reaction?

  • square1 on November 29, 2011 11:39 AM:

    Sorry, but the GOP is playing Obama for a fool.

    Who doesn't anticipate that if the process breaks down that the GOP is going to be pointing fingers at the White House? Of course people are going to look to the President for leadership. If Obama wanted to take a restrained approach, he should have covered his ass.

    When Boehner requested back in August or September that Obama take a less high-profile role during these super committee negotiations, the White House should have memorialized it in a letter to Boehner. It should have said, in effect:

    "At your request, and in order to depoliticize this important legislative task, the President will take a less publicly-visible role during these negotiations. However, the President remains deeply committed to the following principles: X, Y, and Z. If, at any time, the committee believes that an agreement will be facilitated by more direct discussions with the White House, the President will accommodate any such request."

    Then, perhaps before he left for his Pacific trip, the President could have given a press conference, urging the super committee to act and dropped public notice that he has been in discussions behind the scenes at the request of the GOP.

    Then, when talks failed, the White House could have whipped out the letter and forced it down Christie's throat, all while ridiculing Christie for being "out of the loop" and telling him to worry about his own state's problems before butting his nose into budget matters that have nothing to do with the governor of NJ.

    When Jay Carney was asked (several times) about Obama's involvement in the discussion process, his answers careened among (a) Obama was involved; (b) Obama wasn't involved at the request of the GOP; and (c) the statute tasked Congress with coming up with a solution, so it was their job, not his.

    I'm not going to feel sorry for the President if he foolishly walks into GOP traps.

  • ComradeAnon on November 29, 2011 11:48 AM:

    One day the republicans will look back and have their V8 moment. "The President AND the Dems on the Super Committee offered us ALL THAT and we turned it down? What the hell were we thinking?"

  • FlipYrWhig on November 29, 2011 12:17 PM:

    Christ Christie = Rex Ryan.

  • chi res on November 29, 2011 1:06 PM:

    The president has tried every negotiating tactic that exists to get congressional Republicans to work on finding solutions.

    If he had only booted up the magical BULLY PULPIT and given PONIES to everyone...

    (Vote SQUARE for PREZ... because HE knows EVERYTHING!)

  • Stephen on November 29, 2011 2:38 PM:

    The super committee as created by congress and staffed by congress. But, when it fails, it's the president's fault ?

  • MNRD on November 29, 2011 2:53 PM:

    The Republican Party has created a political culture in which clownish over-the-top behavior is the norm. Let's grant that they do about as well as possible at making this clownish political culture seem "normal". So, yes, they have a certain amount of electoral success using their clownish political culture as an electoral launching pad. However, there are limits. There is always going to be a point at which it backfires badly.

    One consequence of this clownish political culture is that it coaxes less clownish Republican politicians into behaving clownishly. It creates an extremely skewed perspective. Those less clownish politicians look at the others and by comparison their own forays into clownishness don't seem clownish.

    That is what has happened to Romney with ad-gate, and that is what is happening to Christie here.

  • A. Moore on November 29, 2011 3:32 PM:

    I feel so sorry for the people of New Jersey, to have that big "A" loud mouth as their Governor.Every one on that super committee were grown adults, they didn't need President Obama holding their hands. Both sides knew what had to be done, but the Republicans didn't want to raise any taxes. Christie is just a big mouth bully who think he knows every darn thing. I'm sure the Koch Brothers told Christie what to say, when to say it, how to say it.

  • Vince on November 29, 2011 3:36 PM:

    Look, this is a classic Republican tactic. Accuse the other side of exactly the thing they are far more guilty of. So, the most accommodating POTUS in my memory is the one who is uncompromising, not the most obstructive political bloc that I've also ever seen in my lifetime.

    You saw it with Liz Cheney's accusation of Obama wanting to tank the economy on purpose in order to improve his chances of winning in 2012 (and don't ask me to explain that bit of electoral strategy, because, of course, it makes no sense whatsoever), when it is clearly the Republicans trying to tank the economy in order to improve their 2012 chances.

    In other words, exhibit ZZZZZ of how Republicans routinely lie.

  • Swift Loris on November 29, 2011 7:48 PM:

    Talk about clownishness--Christie made a big slip when he boasted about having been able to get things done in New Jersey by calling in the legislature and telling them what needed to happen. He said it worked because there were people on "the other side"--i.e., Democrats--who were willing to cooperate.

    Imagine if Obama had congresscritters on "the other side"--i.e., Republicans--who were willing to cooperate.

  • mimi20 on November 30, 2011 7:55 AM:

    And if anyone knows "spin," it's a R/tp governor. Too bad, I though Christie had more sense.