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Chris Christie's Theater of 'Plain Talk'

Part of the intrigue surrounding New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is his apparent willingness to dispense with niceties and tell the truth, as he sees it, in unvarnished -- even bullying -- fashion. Jason Zengerle's profile of Christie for New York magazine reveals that these moments, usually distributed widely on YouTube, are actually pretty varnished:
But Christie was holding the town hall to do more than just promote his agenda; he was also trying to gin up some Internet content. While his fellow governors tend to use their official YouTube channels to show ribbon-cuttings and speeches, Christie, a former federal prosecutor who relishes the thrust and parry of political debate, has turned his into a video library of gubernatorial smackdowns—which, after just ten months in office, are already so numerous that his admirers are able to rank their favorites. Like the one he delivered at a town hall in Rutherford, where he told a public-school teacher complaining about her salary that “teachers go into it knowing what the pay scale is” and that if she didn’t like what she was being paid, “then you don’t have to do it.” Or another he dished out to a reporter who asked him about his “confrontational tone.” “You must be the thinnest-skinned guy in America,” Christie replied, “because you think that’s a confrontational tone? Then you should really see me when I’m pissed.”

Almost everywhere Christie goes, he is filmed by an aide whose job is to capture these “moments,” as the governor’s staff has come to call them. When one occurs, Christie’s press shop splices the video and uploads it to YouTube; from there, conservatives throughout the country share Christie clips the way tween girls circulate Justin Bieber videos. “The YouTube stuff is golden,” says Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review. “I can’t tell you how many people forward them to me.” One video on Christie’s YouTube channel—a drubbing he delivered to another aggrieved public-school teacher at a town hall in September—has racked up over 750,000 views.
I don't have any reason to believe that Christie is anything other than sincere when he delivers his rants against school teachers. But the fact that he goes looking for teachers to shout at on camera surely makes Christie seem much less like a roll-up-his-sleeves-and-tell-it-like-it-is ingenue and more like an old-fashioned pol who's figured out a 21st century way of creating his own free advertising for the Christie brand. This shouldn't be surprising: You don't get to be governor of a state as big as New Jersey without a certain level of ego and cunning. But it does make Christie's videos -- previously a source of fascination for me -- a little less interesting, a bit more tawdry. Chris Christie, it turns out, is just filming a reality show for the Republican Party. He's the Puck of New Jersey politics.


Chris Rywalt said…
As a New Jersey resident, let me state in no uncertain terms that Chris Christie is an asshole. Smacking down teachers while talking about taking over Atlantic City's government? I'd like to see him argue against someone at his own level.

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