Until this latest video, I don’t think I had a good example of Chris Christie’s unique appeal. This incident supplies it: what’s impressive about Christie is not that he is a capable attacker, but that he is an equally capable at the art of political deflection, one which most Republicans fail at, and miserably so. Christie takes a clerical error on Race to the Top and turns it into a strong, forceful statement on the idiocy of bureaucracy.
It’s fitting (karma-wise) that Christie’s remarks are essentially in defense of Bret Schundler, a figure loathed by DC’s education establishment dating back to his initial push for charter schools as mayor of Jersey City. In some sense, though, this could be a blessing in disguise: Race to the Top funding is woefully mismanaged and comes with strings attached. This goes back to a problem Francis and I have discussed in the past — the DC establishment is just not producing a comprehensive or convincing approach to education reform, despite Arne Duncan and Barack Obama’s claims.
I think if Mitch Daniels is serious about sitting out 2012, and Bobby Jindal is as well, there has to be a strong push to recruit Christie to run nationally. He may not be conservative enough for the Republican base, but his no-nonsense message is entirely in tune with the zeitgeist of the times. A pragmatic, gets-stuff-done governor is exactly the type of candidate conservatives need to take on this president — not a controversial celebrity, a failed one termer, a traveling academic, a former tobacco lobbyist or a would-be televangelist. Just to name a few hypothetical candidates.
Update: Karma blowback: Christie fires Schundler after video evidence shows he didn’t supply the correct information during the meeting with the Department of Education.
This was something that had to be done. Even though the bulk of Christie’s podium-pounding speech still stands, the fact that Schundler lied about what he had told DOE was a key issue in all of this:
On Wednesday, Christie publicly said Schundler had tried to give the correct information to a bungled question during the presentation, but video from the U.S. Department of Education released Thursday proved that did not happen.
Christie asked Schundler to walk him through the details of the mistake before the governor came out to defend him earlier this week, according to a source.
But after Christie and other top officials on Thursday watched the video of Schundler and other offficials’ presentation to the U.S. Department of Education, and the video contradicted Schundler’s explanation, the governor said, “He can’t lie to me,” the source said.
There has to be zero tolerance for stuff like this at the cabinet level. You shouldn’t have to fact check what your top dogs say to you.