Does the 51 year old husband, father of four, lawyer and current Governor of New Jersey have what it takes to be President, too?
By Anna Daniels
“Will he or won’t he?” was on every pundit’s mind when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie arrived in Las Vegas to address the Republican Jewish Coalition. Anonymous sources say that the real reason for the visit was to receive the blessing from billionaire Sheldon Adelson for a 2016 presidential run with the attendant promise of Adelson’s substantial financial backing. Christie coyly avoided directly answering a question about the purported meeting when asked at his Friday March 21 press conference.
Christie has a great deal riding on this visit to Las Vegas. He has clearly distanced himself from his two hour press conference in December 2013 when the Bridgegate Scandal genie could no longer be stuffed back into the bottle. During that press conference he seemed chastened, confused, vulnerable and according to an unnamed staffer, he looked…old.
At one point he choked up, seemingly at the point of tears. His approval ratings plummeted, with some left wondering whether his inability to control his emotions led to questions about his leadership capabilities under stress.
The Republican Jewish Coalition attendees seemed palpably relieved that the old Christie was back. Attired in a tailored dark navy suit with contrasting red and white tie, his measured delivery, occasionally punctuated by self-deprecatory humor, diffused criticisms that he too often crossed the line between being “bossy” and “assertive” in his remarks. A pair of gold cuff links– a gift from his wife when their first child was born-reflected the light when he emphasized a point with an upraised hand.
The audience appeared pleased that Christie was in control of his emotions but without coming across as being cold. He was focused but not strident in his assertions. One woman opined that Christie looked good for his age under bright lights that make even younger men appear tired and washed out. “He was smart to wear a cream colored shirt,” she added.
But it is not clear sailing toward the presidential nomination. Anonymous sources point to the significant power that his wife Mary Pat wields behind the scenes. These sources hint that Christie appointments are made only after receiving her approval and that his financial decisions are set by Wall Street, where Mary Pat is employed. Can Christie be perceived as independent of his powerful wife? Would he be a mere shadow president if elected?
Another issue is Christie’s weight. Although he directly addressed this issue when he ran for re-election as governor and when it was conjectured that he was also preparing for a presidential bid, his weight is still seen by some as a political liability and remains the object of what many view as gratuitous personal attacks on social media.
Christie maintains that his physician has deemed him healthy and he has admitted to having “work” done- gastric banding surgery in 2013 that has greatly helped with weight maintenance concerns. Yet Dr. Laura Sachs, frequent guest psychiatrist on Fox News, has opined on numerous occasions that Christie’s weight reflects unresolved emotional issues that may very well compromise his abilities to be the leader of the greatest nation on earth.
Christie’s chief of staff is quick to remind critics that men are still held to an unfair standard in terms of their appearance, damned if they look too good–“do you think he had a little work?” and damned if they don’t–“he wouldn’t look like such a dog if he took care of himself.” He added “I won’t even grace Fox with a comment about their sexist portrayal. I’ll leave the psycho-ceramics to the crackpots at Fox.”
The most conservative catholic and evangelical fringe of the Republican party, while small, is both vocal and critical of Christie’s willingness to leave child-rearing to others. “It is ungodly and utter nonsense for a man to think that he can ‘have it all.’ Will he become just one more father who chooses power and status over attending Little League games and PTA meetings and providing homework assistance for the little ones, as God intended?”
After the speeches on Saturday in Las Vegas, Christie sat relaxed in a corner of the room with a few of his supporters and members of the press. He had removed his jacket to reveal a cream colored polished cotton shirt that set off the gold cuff links. Christie had slipped one foot halfway out of his still laced shoe.
He was remarkably candid about the obstacles that he felt he faced simply because he is a man. “Look, I don’t get it. There is concern that I can’t think independently, that I am nothing more than Mary Pat’s Puppet Muffin. There is concern about my testosterone level and my emotions and my eating habits. There is concern that I spend too much on my suits. And I am constantly reminded that I look just terrible in white shirts–too harsh for my skin tone.
And this really grinds me- that I am president of the bad daddy club because I don’t stay home and build rockets with the kids. I love my kids. But when I used the state helicopter to fly in to attend my kid’s ball game, they were all over me like white on rice. I’m supposed to be concerned about their concerns? Let me tell you something– those people are morons.”
Christie flashes a wicked smile and asks “Am I being bossy or assertive?” He slips his foot back into his shoe with a sigh, stands and puts on his suit coat. “It’s 2014. It’s the 21st century. Is whether I’m bossy or assertive really the burning question? Am I seriously expected to still look youthful and dewy at 51? Is this what electability for the highest office in the land, for a man, ultimately hinges upon?”
Christie shakes his head and walks across the room to Mary Pat, who has spent the past half hour walking among the tables, conversing with attendees. The two of them resume the charm offensive, making their way among the remaining tables. Christie can be seen leaning in.