There are lots of losers in the rise of Donald Trump. The president-elect systematically took apart everyone from Jeb Bush through Hillary Clinton on his way to the White House. But there’s no one who has been forced to suffer more at the hands of Trump than New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
The latest indignity came earlier this week when Bill Stepien, Christie’s onetime confidant, was named White House political director. Stepien was fired by the New Jersey governor during the heat of the controversy over the closure of several lanes of traffic leading to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, New Jersey, aka Bridgegate.
The Stepien appointment comes after Christie – as well as anyone associated with him – was purged from the Trump transition late last year. And after Christie was passed over for any/all Cabinet jobs in the Trump administration. And after enduring months of subtle – and not-so-subtle – jabs about his eating habits and his unsuccessful presidential bids from Trump.
Look, Christie made a giant gamble when he decided to endorse Trump way back in February 2016. And he doubled/tripled/quadrupled down on that bet for the next nine months, essentially abandoning New Jersey – where his poll numbers plummeted – in search of a plum job within Trump’s inner circle and/or Cabinet.
Talking to Christie’s former allies – and there are lots more former allies than current ones – the consensus is that the pre-Trump perception of Christie as a leader was always overstated. To hear them tell it, Christie was always in the market for someone to follow, to be the guy next to the guy. His friendship with Trump and Trump’s, um, forceful personality made the real estate mogul a perfect pick for Christie.
Christie’s miscalculation came in assuming absolute fealty and submission to Trump’s views was what the businessman wanted. Trump, in fact, seems to revel in creating discord and disagreement within his advisers – and even himself. He is the living embodiment of Walt Whitman’s famous admission: “Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”
That, coupled with Trump’s unapologetic focus on the importance of appearances – and his stated views on Christie on that front – made for a volatile combination that left Christie on the outside looking in on, well, everything. That Trump has now hired someone who was cast aside by Christie amid the controversy that hobbled his own presidential bid feels like the cherry on top of a rancid sundae that Christie has been choking down for the last year.
In the after-action report of the 2016 election, Christie’s plight stands out. He now must trudge through his final year as governor with a public that believes he has failed and with roughly zero prospects for his political future.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Chris Cillizza