I miss the Fatman. A eulogy to the Chris Christie candidacy.
I don’t really root for candidates. I root for ideas.
At least, that’s how I defend myself when David Harsanyi or SE Cupp or Meredith Jessup harass me on the way to The Blaze kitchen with hurtful taunts like, “Will and Huntsman sitting in a tree…”(That’s what it’s like around here. Seriously.) I don’t really like Jon Hunstman; I like Jon Huntsman’s tax reform plan.
Sidenote: Huntsman’s plan to simplify the tax code by doing away with all tax expenditures, deductions and loopholes – while lowering the rates – is bold (ahem – Mitt Romney), realistic (ahem – Ron Paul), and good (ahem – Herman Cain). Whether or not Huntsman’s candidacy dies, his tax reform plan should live on in another candidate’s platform.
The point is: I can champion ideas, but I have a hard time picking up the pom-poms for any candidate. Chris Christie, though, had me practicing my hurkey.
I didn’t watch much of Jake and the Fatman. But I watched enough. Besides, I saw Hunter, Matlock, Magnum PI, Airwolf, The A-Team, and Hardcastle and McCormick. They were all basically the same, right? Everything from the theme songs to the casting messaged: “This is some seriously heavy s**t, but it’s going to be okay, because I have a winning smile.”
By the way, the omnipresence of that theme in 80s TV shows is no coincidence. They were almost all created by Stephan Cannell. Remember him? You should. At the end of almost every show from the 80s (The A-Team, Riptide, Hunter, Airwolf, Hardcastle and McCormick, The Greatest American Hero, Wiseguy, 21 Jump Street) you could see Cannell ripping a page off his typewriter before it floated down to rest in the shape of a “C” on a stack of papers.
The New York Times described Cannell’s formula as a “three-act, feel-good story of overcoming debilitating flaws.” You can read it in the elevator pitch of Hardcastle and McCormick. You can see it in Johnny Depp’s character from 21 Jump Street. You can hear it the A-Team theme song. Add in a cool car like the Coyote X or a kick-ass helicopter like Airwolf or a robot like Roboz from Riptide and voila…hit TV show.
But I digress. In Jake and the Fatman (not a Cannell show, but a close cousin) every time William Conrad came growling on screen as J.L. “Fatman” McCabe you just smiled. And everytime Chris Christie gets in front of a camera I just smile.
Now is the point in the column where I tie my overextended digression (masquerading as an analogy) to say Chris Christie – like a Cannell production – is a “feel good story about overcoming debilitating flaws”…because he’s fat. But I can’t.
I can’t because Christie’s weight isn’t a flaw…it’s an asset. One thing we are starving for in politics is authenticity. Christie is…or seems… authentic. And it’s not just because he beats down teachers’ union mouthpieces or radio callers or hecklers with a straight talk that leaves me smiling like Fatman just barked at Jake Styles. (Eighties characters had the most unrealistically cool last names. Jake Styles, Rick Hunter, Nick Ryder. I have no friends with names like that.) It’s also because Christie is fat. His weight enhances his authenticity. He’s literally and figuratively, putting it all out there.
For those looking for some pre-packaged populist, base-pleasing purity, Christie would have disappointed. In 2008 Christie said that “being in this country without proper documentation is not a crime.” Lou Dobbs went on CNN and subsequently called for Christie’s resignation.
Christie has allowed that man could be contributing to climate change. But said he would not back any cap-and-trade bill as a solution. (As I have written, this is the most important position for me in the climate change debate.) And he has favored some gun control laws, like banning assault weapons.
Meanwhile he is a strong fiscal conservative who has walked the walk enough that I believe his talk. Christie balanced NJ’s budget without raising taxes. Instead he made cuts to education and hospitals. He’s taken on public employee unions. And he appointed a Muslim to the Superior Court of New Jersey while saying those worried about Sharia law are “crazies.” None of these positions are good for his election hopes. None are populist positions.
And that’s what made me want to cheer for Christie. What you see is what you get. So when Christie talks of entitlement reform I trust that he’ll actually attempt entitlement reform. And when he says “leaders don’t read polls, leaders change polls” I start warming up the crowd.
I see a different kind of purity in Christie…a logical purity. His rhetoric, and more importantly his record, suggest he is committed to individual liberty, responsible government, and free markets. And he defends those ideas without pandering to populists.
Those are ideas that I cheer. And most of the candidates in the current GOP field for president have let me down with their commitment to those ideas. If Chris Christie would have championed those ideas on a national stage, it would have made it hard for me not to champion him.
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