Chris Christie: Wannabe Celebrity

Chris Christie
Chris Christie / AP
February 28, 2016

I have to admit being a bit surprised by Chris Christie's decision to support Donald Trump. I've always liked Christie's shtick—the blustery, straight-shooting Jersey bro willing to speak truth to constituents—so it came as a shock when he so publicly backed a guy he had previously referred to as a "carnival barker" and said lacked the experience to serve as commander in chief.

But I guess it shouldn't be that startling. After all, Chris Christie's always been a bit of a starf*cker (read this without cringing if you can) with a taste for the finer things in life that his idols in the entertainment industry have access to.

Watching Donald Trump dismiss Christie the other night—telling him to get on the private jet and fly home—I couldn't help but think back to 2012, when Christie refused to work as a surrogate for the Romney campaign because they wouldn't meet his rock-star demands for "private jets" and "lavish spreads." It's a vanity that has gotten Christie into trouble in the past: He opened himself up to ethics charges after accepting several flights on Jerry Jones' private jet to check out Cowboys games; Jones had gotten a Port Authority contract following a recommendation from Christie.

And he is more than happy to live the highlife on the taxpayer's dime:

Facing broad criticism for flying by helicopter to watch his son’s high school baseball game in Bergen County, Gov. Chris Christie refused today to refund the state for Tuesday’s $2,500-an-hour flight.

The thing to remember about Christie—the reason his idol Bruce Springsteen's repeated rejection hurt so much, I think—is that the New Jersey governor considers himself a celebrity and, as a result, feels entitled to the celebrity's lifestyle. As Jason Fagone noted on Twitter, Matt Katz's book on Christie contains the following rather revealing quote in a section during which, among other things, it is revealed that Christie crashed at Jon Bon Jovi's house one night and texted Bono after news broke that the Irish rocker got into an accident:

I've never had trouble making friends, of any kind, in my life. ... For people who are important to me in my life, I pay attention to them. ... Now that I'm a celebrity, celebrities are no different than anyone else.

Christie's sense of his own celebrity—partying with Jerry Jones in the owner's box; trading texts with rock gods—might help explain why he was open to being wooed by Donald Trump. This New York Times account of Trump's effort to win Christie over is deeply informative:

Mr. Christie, 53, took [a voicemail from Rubio following Christie's dropping out of the race] as deeply disrespectful and patronizing, questioning why "a 44-year-old" was telling him about his future, said people who described his reaction on the condition of anonymity. Further efforts to connect the two never yielded a direct conversation.

Mr. Trump, by contrast, made frequent calls to Mr. Christie once he dropped out, a person close to the governor said. After the two met at Trump Tower on Thursday with their wives, Mr. Christie flew to Texas and emerged on Friday to back Mr. Trump and mock Mr. Rubio as a desperate candidate near the end of a losing campaign.

Trump can give Christie everything that the larger-than-life governor thinks he is entitled to: luxurious accommodations, travel worthy of the Davos set, and a reflection of glory. "Donald Trump is a celebrity—just like me!" Christie almost certainly thinks to himself. "Who is this Rubio punk? Why are his donors backing him and not me? Don't they know who I am? Don't they know who I have in my rolodex? Has Rubio ever taken a phone call from Bono? Slept on Richie Sambora's couch? High-fived an NFL owner in that owner's box?"

And so a few friendly phone calls from a second-rate reality TV star are enough to convince the supposed straight-talker to flip flop on his pledge to never support the David Duke-backed Donald Trump.

It's sad. But then, the life of the C-list celebrity often is.