The American electorate has long resigned itself to a permanent campaign, an endless carnival of exploratory committees, chicken dinners and cable excitement. The 2024 campaign for the Presidency is unique in that it started around 2 a.m. on November 4, 2020, with a cheeky act of seditious rhetoric broadcast live from the East Room of the White House. The result being still in question, Donald Trump declared fraud. And, when all the votes were tallied with Biden as the winner, Trump set out to foment the insurgency that ended with a mob of his delusional loyalists storming the U.S. Capitol.
Illustration by Joe Farm
Trump remains unmoved, if not serene, about these events. He told journalist Jonathan Karl that he remembers January 6 as a very beautiful time with extremely loving and friendly people. Five people died as a result of this beautiful moment, and nearly seven hundred of the amorous marauders were charged with various crimes. No matter. Just as pro-slavery southerners refused to accept Lincoln as president after the 1860 election, millions of Americans have been convinced by Trump and the social media swamp that Bidens’ presidency is illegitimate.
Even if Trump is threatened with prosecution, he could run again. And he could win. Or he could step down for one of his maximalist imitators: Ron DeSantis, of Florida; Josh Hawley, from Missouri; Ted Cruz or Greg Abbott, from Texas. Virginia’s recent gubernatorial race, however, points to a different kind of Republican future. Glenn Youngkin, a half-billionaire who made his fortune in private equity, defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe, a Clintonian echt, with a clever MAGA lite strategy. Youngkin, a sober cynic, admitted that in a state like Virginia that chose George W. Bush twice, then Barack Obama twice, then Hillary Clinton, in 2016, and Biden, in 2020, he would do well to do a gesture in Trump’s direction without imitating his scariest tactics. Youngkin never fully endorsed Trump’s electoral conspiracy theory, but said he would vote for him if he got the Republican nomination in 2024, and that he was all for electoral integrity. . He vowed to ban critical race theory from schools, even though it is not part of the state curriculum. This kind of reporting allowed him to cling to Trumpian purists in rural areas, while attracting just enough swing voters in the suburbs. Youngkin beat McAuliffe by 2% in a state that just a year earlier had won Biden by ten.
Last week, Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, published Republican Rescue, a book that, in effect, seeks to extend the Youngkin strategy nationwide. Many former members of the Trump circle have written books or chatted to receptive reporters in the hopes of cleaning their reputations. Christie is going to the Literary Laundromat because he might want to run for President in 2024. It’s hard to see how he has enough detergent.
Christie has been Trump’s friend, dinner companion and advisor for two decades. He supported Trump early on, wrote notes for him, prepared him for debates with Clinton, and encouraged him to appoint right-wing judges and follow the America First path. He led Trump’s transition team until Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon fended him off. In fact, he writes, very few people were as publicly invested in Donald Trump’s success as I was.
Christie wants Republicans to accept him as the only member of the Trumps circle who has always given him unvarnished advice, who has always been for the good of the country and the administration, never for himself: I told him hard truths when no one else would. But his portrayal of his friend is ridiculously selective. He ignores or does not care about racism, cruelty, infringement of the right to vote, authoritarian impulses. He describes Trump’s crises and furies as eccentric behavior that breaks the standards of charm. As governor, Christie reveled in her own temper tantrums. And so, when he admits that he admires Trump’s fearlessness, he admires himself.
Christie finally reaches his limits when Trump refuses to accept election results and helps spark the Jan.6 insurgency. Not that Christie, despite her insider status, thought it was in Trump’s character to do so. On the eve of the election, he assured a Canadian interviewer that Trump and Biden were both responsible men and that if Biden won, there was no doubt in my mind that President Trump would participate in a peaceful transition of power. . Rather than admit that he was wrong all along about Trump, he’s bragging about his own bravery when he tells George Stephanopoulos on ABC that I don’t agree with Trump’s seditious course. . It’s kind of like disagreeing with the assault on Fort Sumter.
Christie is a wise narrator. He remains loyal to Trump, but wants you to know that he understands what kind of human being Trump is. In the final months of the administration, Christie was invited to the White House to attend Rose Garden’s presentation of Amy Coney Barrett as a candidate for the Supreme Court and to help prepare Trump for a debate with Biden . Christie confirms how carefree Trump and his administration were about COVID masks being looked down upon in the White House and, as one would expect, many officials and visitors, including Trump and Christie, fell ill. While Trump was hospitalized at Walter Reed, he called Christie, who was in pain at a New Jersey hospital. The president wanted to know one thing: are you going to say that you got it from me?
Christie doesn’t blame Trump. He does not dare. He lets him get away with it. And this is the last call I received at Donald Trump’s hospital, he writes.
Christie will never frankly say what he knows to be true: this Trump presidency has had disastrous consequences for the country. Trump has been impeached twice, but Christie doesn’t struggle much with that record. Instead, he insists Republicans must look to the future. They must of course separate themselves from the mad militias and conspiracy theorists, but most of all they must fight Biden, an anti-capitalist who imposes a critical race theory on unsuspecting children. The climate catastrophe, the threat of authoritarianism at home and around the world, the biggest challenges we face don’t seem to interest Christie more than the political party he hopes to lead. In Republican Rescue, he asks the GOP to support him because he was by Trump’s side until the ugly coda, when he was not. The campaign slogan that emerges from this book might as well be Vote Chris Christie. Healthier than Rudolph Giuliani. Not exactly Tippecanoe and Tyler too, but that’s what he’s got.
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