Poet's notebook: Chris Christie in Wonderland

click to enlarge Poet's notebook: Chris Christie in Wonderland - jeanne meinke
jeanne meinke
Poet's notebook: Chris Christie in Wonderland

There once was a turtle 

Whose first name was Myrtle
Swam out to the Jersey shore.


The above words were the first lines of poetry I can remember, because back in the 1930s, when local accents were frowned upon, our grade school teachers in Brooklyn worked hard (“woiked hahd,” we’d say) on erasing ours. Of course, we tended to bloit, “Dere once wuz a toitle…” while the teacher would roll her eyes and ask us to repeat it, slower this time.

In 1945 we moved, against my teen-aged will, to what I called “Noo Joisey,” then governed by Republican Walter Evans Edge, of whom I was totally oblivious, though much later he resurfaced (on TV) as a somewhat shady political pal of Nucky, the crime boss in Boardwalk Empire. This leads, of course, to today’s New Jersey governor, the colorful and only occasionally shady Chris Christie.


In some ways, Christie’s the anti-Obama, his very shape suggesting over-indulgence compared to President Obama’s disciplined leanness. When they walked together through the wreckage of Hurricane Sandy, they brought to my mind the 1939 Trylon and Perisphere in the New York’s World Fair, the tremendous girth of the Perisphere the perfect foil for the towering skinny Trylon — connected by the world’s longest escalator — a wonder for my then 7-year-old eyes.

And this summer, when Christie threw his oversized hat into the Republican presidential ring, he once again nudged me back into my early years. “I’m running for president,” he said (repeatedly), “and one thing you will know for sure: I say what I mean, and I mean what I say.”
Hasn’t Christie ever read Alice in Wonderland? Those are the same words Alice says at her famous tea party with the March Hare and the Mad Hatter, adding, “That’s the same thing, you know.”

“Not the same thing a bit!” says the Hatter. “Why, you might just as well say ‘I see what I eat’ is the same thing as “I eat what I see.” Needless to say, an uncomfortable conversation for Christie, who seems not to have properly digested it.

I hope Christie’s numbers go up in the polls, because he’s fun to watch. The media exploits his directness, delighting in replaying his explosions: “None of your business!” he’ll shout, or “Sit down and shut up!” Many times, to viewers who’ve seen longer segments, these seem justified, or at least normal: Who hasn’t wanted to tell off an obnoxious antagonist?

That’s why I was disappointed in his reaction to the Trump fiasco. The Donald lives in a fantasy world stranger than Tweedledee and Tweedledum’s, and Christie’s smarter than Trump in almost every way; but he missed a great opportunity by declaring him a friend, instead of a bloated bigot. In addition, in Christie’s debate argument with Rand Paul, he started off with, and repeated, an unnecessary and colorless falsehood: “I was appointed U.S. Attorney the day before the September 11th attacks.” Check PolitiFact: He can lie better than that.

Most mornings we watch at least some of Morning Joe, rooting for Mika Brzezinski to act a bit like Christie and tell Joe to clam up and listen. It was fun seeing Christie on the program, attacking the media for making him out to be “Attila the Hun” during the Bridgegate scandal. But this presidency business is making him curb his tongue. His polling numbers, even in New Jersey — maybe especially in New Jersey — are lower than Governor Scott’s in Florida. And if he’s not being up front and outrageous, what’s he have to offer? Although unlike Scott, he’s accepted Medicaid for New Jersey, and has tempered his stance against gay rights, Christie’s now trying to edge far enough to the right to get invited to the Party, and just as in Lewis Carroll’s original scene, his offerings are all weak Tea.

“Have some wine,” the March Hare said in an encouraging tone. Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea. “I don’t see any wine,” she remarked. “There isn’t any,” said the March Hare. 

—From Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) 

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