Originally published in this week’s TriCity News. If you live in Monmouth or Ocean County, NJ - pick up a copy!
“Numbnuts” - that’s the phrase Chris Christie chose to attack Assemblyman Reed Gusciora with after he criticized the Governor for his indefensible assertion that activists in the 1950s and 60s “would have been happy to have a referendum on civil rights rather than fighting and dying in the streets of the South.”
The sensible among us have always known that Governor Christie is just Archie Bunker with line-item veto power. So that statement - which he apologized for after a backlash which included legendary civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) coming to New Jersey to note that Christie “has not read his recent history books” - came as little surprise.
Hanging out with Oprah generally means that you’re looking to make some moves towards personal growth, but Christie would never allow something as silly as that to deny him the attention he receives for being a slow-witted, slow-moving playground bully. Our fearless leader’s employment of “numbnuts,” sadly, shocked no one.
Still, It is difficult to decide what’s more disheartening, that Christie thinks “numbnuts” is a comically sophisticated dig, or that someone who uses the phrase “numbuts” is Governor of New Jersey.
Sure, to the rest of the country, he’s the “funny,” straight-talking “tough guy.” But this is New Jersey! Is it too much to expect all natives to be able to construct a respectable insult? We’ve put in charge a talentless character actor who’s failing miserably to inhabit the role of a wise-guy in a PG-13, straight-to-DVD mob flick. Have we no taste?
Alas, this isn’t really about us. Though it may appear so, Christie didn’t break the cardinal rule of communication - know your audience - because he’s not really performing for the citizens of the Garden State. The rest of the country is who Governor Christie is trying to charm, and let’s face it: the rest of the country is easy.
East Coast humor is of a higher standard than that of the slobbering masses of Middle right-wing America. And considering Christie has been spending increasingly more time out of state, trying to raise his National profile, it makes sense that the level of sophistication in his humor has reached a staggering new low.
You can catch him in Iowa or New Hampshire, dazzling folks with his ability to fully embody every stereotype he condemned while attempting to endear himself to East-Coasters. The Governor hates the sort of image the cast of the Jersey Shore perpetuates…unless he’s the one reaping the rewards. Catch him headlining in Louisiana or Utah, threatening to return “Jersey-style” if voters don’t “do the right thing” and while you’re there, try the veal.
Call the Governor the political equivalent to his fellow Livingston original Chelsea Handler, someone who’s found approval in audiences who think the holy grail of funny is anything crass which involves reproductive organs, alcohol or flatulence. Both Ms. Handler and Mr. Christie have been catapulted to mainstream stardom by virtue of the fact that their “humor,” as it is, is as easily digestible as a slice of processed, plastic-wrapped American cheese. Neither Christie or Handler could so much as shine Congressman Barney Frank’s shoes.
Or call him a land-bound Tinkerbell, a man so desperate for applause that instead of taking the time to improve his schtick for the tough crowd he governs, he’d rather make a beeline for Fly-over Country where the laughs are easily won. Christie needs to garner enough praise to keep that ego-fueled engine of his propelling him towards Washington.
Though, you can’t really blame the guy for parading his side show act around the country, considering the shit continues to hit the fan here at home. It’s tough to be funny when the state you’re in charge of lags the nation 45th in job growth, placing its unemployment rate at .6% above the national average.
But at the end of the day, being Governor means you’ve got to interrupt your publicity tours to face your constituents every now and then, so Christie has decided to take a page from the Karl Rove playbook. As the late, great Molly Ivins said of Rove’s strategy for Dubya when he was Governor of Texas “if you say something often enough, the reality makes no difference.”
“Jersey Comeback” - it’s a narrative that’s likely to ring true for the rest of the country, just like the narrative of Chris Christie did. He’s Jersey’s hilarious ambassador who’s not afraid to tell it like it is…unless he’s talking about his own record. A fact which is likely beyond the comprehension of the pundits who wailed “he balanced the budget!” during the media frenzy over whether or not he’d jump into the presidential race, or the easily-amused simpletons at a Romney rally.
Right-wing America has knit itself into a blanket of support for Governor Christie, and it’s not hard to understand why he doesn’t want to take it off. After all, it’s comfortable to be king - to have followers so loyal that a jibe like “numbnuts” reads as comedy of biblical proportions. It’s only here in New Jersey that it’s clear: the joke is Chris Christie.
By Olivia Nuzzi