Chris Christie's endless ambition leads him to embrace Donald Trump's racism | Moran

By Tom Moran | Star-Ledger Editorial Board
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on June 07, 2016

On Tuesday, a respected poll showed that 79 percent of voters in New Jersey believe the governor is a self-centered scamp who would throw us all overboard in a tropical storm if it would advance his Godless personal ambitions.

Ok, I'm adding a few flourishes.

The precise question, from the Monmouth University Poll, was this: "Do you think Chris Christie is more concerned with governing the state of New Jersey or more concerned about his own political future?"

Christie, our absentee governor, removed any scrap of doubt when he endorsed Donald Trump in February — a few weeks after trashing him as a phony blowhard.

It was, in the words of Christie's disgusted finance chairwoman, Meg Whitman, "an astonishing display of political opportunism."

But the governor outdid himself on Tuesday, sinking to a new low that is impossible to forgive.

He was asked about Trump's novel assertion that a judge of Mexican descent should be barred from presiding over the Trump University fraud case. Because, you know, he's Mexican.

Trump later added that Muslim judges should probably be barred as well.

Republicans everywhere winced. Their undisputed leader was slicing up America into racial and religious fiefdoms, and sowing profound disrespect for the rule of law.

Should black defendants now insist on having black judges? Whites can only trust fellow whites? Christians can only trust fellow Christians? If we followed Trump down this wormhole, where would it end?

Forget about the freedom and prosperity that the rule of law has brought: Let's go tribal.

Suddenly, the comparison to Adolf Hitler made by Gov. Christie Whitman seems prophetic.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who endorsed Trump only a few days ago, called it "a textbook definition of a racist comment."

And then Christie weighed in.

At his polling place on Tuesday, he dismissed all this as a "kerfuffle" and suggested that the press was whipping up the controversy for its own amusement.

"Those are Donald's opinions and he has the right to express them," the governor said.

He's right about free expression — American judges of all races and creeds have confirmed that right over and over.

But the governor is missing the point by about a mile: Did anyone challenge Trump's right to voice his opinion?

I'm ready to believe that Trump stumbled into this, that he genuinely has no clue why his attack on the judge has stirred such passions. Judge for yourself whether that adds or detracts from the offense.

But I have no doubt that Christie knows precisely why this is so wrong. He is a smart lawyer who knows political history; he served as federal prospector for seven years, and as governor for seven more.

In fact, we know that he knows better. Because he faced this kind of bigoted nonsense once before, when he nominated a Muslim judge to the state superior court in 2011 and was lambasted by the Tea Party crowd who said a Muslim judge would impose Sharia Law.

Like Trump, those critics were reducing a judge to his religious and ethnic roots, and suggesting he could not possibly get past them.

Christie back then called that "crap" and described the critics as "crazies."

At the time, I thought it was an inspired moment, a Republican governor swatting down far-right activists to uphold a core principle.

But I was a sap. I know the man better now.

At the time, Christie was gearing up for a possible presidential campaign, pitching himself as a bipartisan bridge-builder, a moderate who could get things done.

So he expressed absolute faith in the ability of a Muslim judge to follow the letter of the law impartially.

Now Trump is saying the exact opposite. And Christie is defending him.

What's changed? Christie's self-interest. If he wants to ride Trump's coattails to power, he has to be loyal even if it means he has to become one of the "crazies."

If Trump told him to flap his arms and quack like a duck, Christie would do it. There is no mystery here.

If there is any consolation, it is this small one: At least he's not fooling the people of New Jersey anymore.

We can only hope he gets what he deserves in the end. If Trump loses big, which is starting to look more likely, Christie's key role will be remembered.

He was the first major establishment figure to endorse Trump. And if this week is any guide, he will be the last to abandon him.

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