I offered to help prepare Chris Christie for the debate with Donald Trump.
Christie helped groom Trump in 2016, saying she played Hillary Clinton too aggressively to make Trump think the real thing was “a piece of cake.”
And now, sitting at a table in the Times cafeteria with the former New Jersey governor, I thought I could play Trump.
We’ve both known the scoundrel for decades. And let’s be honest. We want Christie on that wall. After years of watching Republicans cower before Trump, it’s heartening to see the disgraced former president finally meet his better half.
Even my Republican sister, who doesn’t want to vote for Trump but can if it’s Trump vs. President Biden, sent Christie money to help him secure a place on the debate stage.
Trump has boasted that he is so far ahead of his Republican rivals that he may not bother to show up for the first debate in August, hosted by Fox News in Milwaukee.
“I think he will show up in the debates because his ego won’t let him not do it,” Christie said. “You can’t have a big TV show that she’s not on.” He smiled and added: “Is she on Truth Social freaking out and no one is paying attention? He won’t deal well with it.”
I did warn that Trump is an asymmetric fighter, so it’s hard to know how to attack him. Clinton tried to rise above him and Marco Rubio imitated his rugged style.
“You just mentioned two of the least qualified politicians I’ve ever met,” Christie said, referring to Trump: “I don’t think he’s ever faced someone who knows how to do what he’s doing. He has never faced someone from New Jersey who understands what New York is and what it is about. For people like me, who grew up here and lived my whole life in this environment, he’s just one of the many people I know who have that personality. He knows that I know what his game is.”
He said he’s not running to get back at Trump for giving him a horrible case of covid. Trump arrived at the debate prep in September 2020 without telling Christie or anyone else that he had tested positive the day before, and Christie ended up in ICU for seven days. And he said he’s not looking for revenge because Trump didn’t make him attorney general. (Jared Kushner still held a grudge that Christie jailed Kushner’s father.)
But even for a guy who could be pretty nasty as a governor, trying to overthrow democracy was a bridge too far.
“The idea that somehow everyone is going to wait for him to collapse under his own weight and then say, ‘Oh, I didn’t say anything bad about him,’” he said. “He has never fallen under his own weight. The only time Donald Trump ever backed down in his life was when they beat him to back down. I saw it happen in Atlantic City. He was bankrupt three times. He finally had to give in and close ”.
Christie mocked Ron DeSantis responding to Jan. 6 by saying he wasn’t in Washington: “Was he alive?” Christie asked Kaitlan Collins on Unlisted News. He thinks DeSantis has already lost the authenticity contest: “If you tell Tucker Carlson that Ukraine is a territorial dispute and then a few days later you go to Piers Morgan and call Putin a war criminal, well, it’s one or the other. ”
What about the end of the love affair with Fox News and Trump?
“I have known Rupert for a long time,” Christie said. “I suspect Rupert’s view is: ‘Enough is enough.'”
Is Trump, as his former chief of staff John Kelly put it, scared to death?
“He’s scared,” Christie said. “Look, a guy like him, the last place you want to be in life is jail because you give up all control, and he’s a complete control freak.” Trump is playing checkers, not chess, Christie said, just struggling to make the next leap.
Christie is the best Jersey boy. (Her relationship with his idol Bruce Springsteen, which was shattered during his stint as a Trump sycophant, is “a work in progress,” he said.) So I wonder how he feels about Jack Smith focusing on vivid scenes at the golf club. in Bedminster, NJ, with Trump waving classified documents and then telling reporters it was just “bravado” and the documents were simply plans for a golf course.
“Yeah, because look, for Donald Trump it’s better to be called a liar than go to jail,” Christie said. “If you’re buying him a get out of jail card, he’ll accept that trade every day.”
Trump has been peppering Christie with insults about her weight: “lazy,” “sloppy Chris Christie” and a fake video showing Christie feasting at a fried food buffet.
“I’m not going to say it never bothers me,” Christie said, noting that any time you get hit for “a weakness or a failure,” it depends on your mood how much you take it. But, she added, Trump is not Adonis, so “coming from him? Who cares? Look in the mirror. I always thought it was really funny that he had this view of himself. He once told me that the reason he ties his ties so long is that he thins him out and that I should do the same.”
Trump is also the one who, in 2005, first suggested to Christie that she get gastric band surgery, which she ultimately did. So, I ask, Trump used to be concerned about your health and now he viciously insults you about your weight.
“That’s part of the magic of him,” Christie said. “He’s in it to do either. It’s not that he can’t be charming. He can be. But only when he is looking for something from you.
What about the Biden era debate?
“I think it’s past its expiration date, and I think Trump is too, by the way,” Christie, 60, said, adding of Biden: “I think his family should let him go home.” She asked, “Are you really motivated by love for this guy, or is he motivated by scam?”
And Hunter Biden’s appearance at the Indian Prime Minister’s state dinner, two days after his plea deal?
“Look, that also shows you that Joe Biden is not in control, because if he was in his right mind, I don’t care how much you love your son, he doesn’t have to be at the state dinner,” Christie said. “It’s not like you’re saying, ‘You can’t come to the White House. I can’t see you I can’t visit you. You are toxic.’”
He believes that Kamala Harris is “a problem for Biden, and will hurt him,” saying, “I don’t think Dan Quayle hurt George Bush 41. But George Bush 41 wasn’t 82.”
As we head into the 4th of July, I wonder if Christie is having acid memories of the 4th of July weekend in 2017 when, as governor, he was photographed sunbathing on a closed public beach during a state government shutdown.
“My mistake,” he said. “I blew it. But no acid flashbacks.