“You know, on the one hand you have people like Chris Christie who looks like somebody to me who could be a hopeful beacon in the Republican Party — somebody who when push came to shove worked with the president, put politics aside and said, ‘Look there are bigger things,’” Maher said. “I can actually embrace this guy. I know there was a lot of talk in the media about what were his machinations, why was he doing this. I don’t think it’s that complicated. I think he’s a basic guy. I don’t agree with his philosophy in politics, but basically some bad stuff happened to him in his state and he got the memo ... And he’s also kind of a straight talking guy,” Maher continued. “There are times when I listen to him and I like him because he’s saying things that don’t sound like a panderer. He’s the opposite of Mitt Romney. And I think this generation especially — they may not be well informed — I think we’re still going to have low-information voters. But they are kind of savvy about media, and I kind of think Mitt Romney may be the last candidate we see who is of that order who everything he says, everything that comes out of his mouth, just seems like it was pre-programmed. And Chris Christie seems to be the opposite of that.”
Some conservatives are hopping mad at Christie for allegedly "boosting" Obama during Hurricane Sandy. The Hill suggests the flap has presented the truculent governor with an "Obama problem." I think this criticism is misplaced. Christie isn't a purist conservative's conservative to be sure, but the notion that he was actively trying to help Obama (and/or damage Mitt Romney) in order to improve his own political stature isn't fair. Christie was doing his best to lead his state through a period of genuine crisis, and compared to some other leaders in the region, he did an exceptional job. The big man's entire brand hinges on the importance of leadership and putting people ahead of knee-jerk partisanship. That was the central message of his well-received speech at the Reagan Library, and he reprised the theme in his RNC keynote address. If Christie had shunned or snubbed Obama in any way during Sandy, he would have betrayed the principle that has undergirded his political career. I have no problem whatsoever with Christie's behavior vis-a-vis the president in late October; on this point, Maher and I agree (gulp). Perhaps my only quibble is that he could have been slightly less effusive towards the president, but again, that's a quibble.
That being said, Christie ought to tread carefully moving forward. Governor, liberals are not your friends. They're currently saying nice things about you out of political expediency, but they will turn on you as soon as your temporary usefulness to them expires. Don't believe me? Ask Scott Brown. Or John McCain. Regular readers know that I occasionally joke about being Townhall's resident RINO, and I do honestly like Brown, McCain and Christie -- just as I admire many strong conservatives within the GOP. The base of a party that is struggling to expand its appeal does itself no favors by rejecting the reality of the need for a "big tent" victory coalition. Without the political math of addition and multiplication, you end up with subtraction and division -- and you lose. But Republican leaders from across the spectrum also do themselves no favors if they allow themselves to buy into the lie that liberal hosannas will be their ticket to future success. I'm not suggesting that Christie isn't aware of this trap, but applause from adversaries can be quite seductive. A healthy mentality under which elected Republicans (and media commentators, for that matter) should operate is: (a) stick to your principles, (b) do what you believe is right, and (c) beware liberals bearing praise.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography