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Column: Chris Christie won’t win, but at least he’s speaking truth to Trump

Two men in the background listen while a man in the foreground speaks.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, left, and former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani listen while then-President Trump speaks during a briefing at the White House in September 2020, before Christie broke with the former president.
(Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty Images)
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Out of the miasma of Republican denial, a bold truth teller has emerged.

Of course, he doesn’t stand a rat’s chance of winning his party’s presidential nomination, but former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie should be celebrated for calling out former President Trump.

On the eve of Trump’s second arraignment — this time on federal charges — his former buddy and current 2024 opponent trash-talked him with zest during a CNN town hall Monday.

Opinion Columnist

Robin Abcarian

No insult Christie leveled at Trump was quite as poetic as his description last week of the former president as “a lonely, self-consumed, self-serving mirror hog.” He also called Trump “a child,” “completely self-centered, completely self-consumed,” “a three-time loser,” a “loser, loser, loser,” and “victim me, poor me.”


In the current GOP orthodoxy, Christie’s honesty is apostasy.

And yet his performance, I daresay, brought a touch of sanity to an otherwise delusional Republican presidential field.

For the record:

6:22 p.m. June 13, 2023A previous version of this column referred to former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as North Carolina’s former governor.

Folks like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and former Vice President Mike Pence have been reluctant to take on the former guy, who continues to dominate the polls regardless of his mounting legal woes.

The former New Jersey governor has cast himself as the only candidate in the field willing to directly take on former President Trump.

June 6, 2023

Some of the Republican presidential candidates can’t even bring themselves to utter Trump’s name. A recent Iowa gathering of some Republican candidates, said Christie, was a case in point.

“It was like he was Voldemort from ‘Harry Potter,’” Christie said. “Like, nobody wanted to mention his name. Like, say his name, man, say his name! Right? I mean, how do you beat someone if you won’t talk about them? How do you beat them if you won’t distinguish yourself from them?”

Former President Trump was indicted on charges related to classified documents found at his Florida estate. Special counsel Jack Smith’s case is historic.

June 9, 2023

Maybe they don’t want to distinguish themselves from Trump. Maybe each is praying that Trump’s candidacy implodes, opening the way for him- or herself as the Trump alternative.

“A number of Republicans have been reluctant to talk about the substance of actually what’s in [the indictment],” noted CNN host Anderson Cooper.


“I hadn’t noticed,” Christie replied dryly. “How about you decide who is the most honest, forthright leader who has common sense and will put you first, and let’s put that person behind the desk in the Oval Office?”

Taking boxes of classified documents in violation of the Presidential Records Act, then trying to keep them away from federal officials who subpoenaed them and inducing others to lie, said Christie, “is inexcusable in my opinion for someone who wants to be president of the United States.”

As for the tiresome Republican refrain that President Biden has “weaponized” the Department of Justice against Trump, Christie, a former federal prosecutor was brusque: “You know, look, I don’t think so. This evidence looks pretty damning. … How about blame him? He did it.”

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May 28, 2023

If Trump had simply returned the boxes, said Christie, “none of this would have happened. He is saying, ‘I am more important than the country. These are my papers.’ This is vanity run amok, ego run amok.”

And if the “angry and vengeful” Trump were to be reelected, Christie said, you can bet the rerun will be uglier than the original. A second Trump term would be “all about him settling scores with everybody who he thinks wasn’t perfectly nice to him.”

In 2018, Lincoln Project co-founder Rick Wilson authored the withering critique “Everything Trump Touches Dies.” Trump’s friendship with Christie is no exception.

Christie supported Trump early on after he dropped out of the 2016 nominating contest, and helped Trump prep for his presidential debates that year and in 2020. (Christie nearly died after contracting COVID-19 from Trump during a 2020 debate prep session. Trump had not disclosed to Christie that he had tested positive that morning before the prep had begun and, Christie alleged Monday, later told reporters that Christie gave it to him.)


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May 10, 2023

Christie’s breaking point with Trump came when the president stood behind the presidential seal in the wee hours after polls closed in November 2020 and declared himself the winner. CNN played the clip for the town hall audience: “This is a fraud on the American public,” Trump said. “This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election.”

Of course, no one knew who won the election at that point. It was far too early.

Trump, Christie said, behaved like a schoolchild who came home with a bad grade and blamed the teacher, or the kid sitting next to him for distracting him.

“It’s a child’s reaction,” he said, “and I beg you to think about this. Don’t allow the showmanship to obscure the facts. The facts are he lost to Joe Biden.”

The town hall wasn’t all Trump bashing, as refreshing as that was.

Christie refused to step into the culture wars muck, telling Cooper that states should make up their own minds about abortion. He disavowed his previous position that no one “needs” assault weapons, saying that it’s not a matter of “need,” it’s a matter of what the 2nd Amendment allows. He gave a remarkably sensitive answer about drug addiction and incarceration — telling a woman with a troubled son that addiction is a disease requiring treatment, not a moral failing.

Which is probably why he’s polling at only about 1% among likely Republican voters.

In today’s GOP, speaking truth to Trump is unforgivable. Necessary, if the party is to regain its sanity, but unforgivable.