Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ready Or Not, Christie Should Run

Now is the summer of Republican discontent. And, it’s not just about losing a safe Republican Congressional seat in New York.

Jane Corwin might have lost because of Medicare, but it is also true that national leadership from Republicans has become, dare I say, somewhat muted since the election.

Surely, Paul Ryan did step up. But, at the same time the best Republican communicator, Chris Christie, seemed to step down. He has spent so much energy rejecting calls to run for the presidency, and has been scrupulous in avoiding comments on national issues.

In the year preceding the 2010 election, Christie was a leader, a force, someone to be reckoned with. He became a YouTube sensation by speaking directly and forthrightly, for welcoming the fight, and for engaging the issues in terms that people had simply not heard before. Better yet, that made them think. Christie's challenge to public sector unions resonated in the country and made it acceptable for Republicans to go on the attack against them.

Christie was the role model for the Republican governors elected in 2010.

Governors like Scott Walker and John Kasich followed in Christie’s footsteps by taking on the unions, but they lacked Christie’s skill in crafting a message.

Christie himself was, it seems to me, nowhere to be found.

Or better, he was getting bogged down in New Jersey issues while insisting, vigorously and vociferously, that he would not be a candidate in 2012. He did not seem to recognize that all the negativity does not make him look very good.

When we face danger, we humans have something called a fight-or-flight instinct. When faced with the reaction to his leadership style made him a national figure, Chris Christie seems to have fallen into full flight mode.

He may think that he can choose between New Jersey and the nation. In that he is probably wrong. The more he looks like he is ducking a fight, the more he will lose his political capital in New Jersey.

By running away from the national fray, Christie risks making his task in New Jersey that much more difficult.

He’s running away from the race as fast as he can, but still, he’s running on a lame excuse.

He says he’s not ready.

In another world at another time that might be a reasonable excuse. After all, Christie has not even been governor for two years, and, he argues, that does not suffice.

In his years as governor, however, Christie has made an outsized impression on the public and especially the Republican electorate.

When he makes his personal readiness an iron-clad disqualifier, he is reasoning in personal, not political, terms. Beyond that, his reasoning is too self-centered.

When your country calls, when it needs you, you do not respond by saying that you do not feel ready. There are challenges for which one never feels ready.
He should ask whether his country is ready for him. If it is, he ought to accept the call. I hate to put it in these terms, but that is the honorable thing to do.

Christie may believe that he has the luxury of waiting until 2016, but, that is not the issue. Does America have the luxury to suffer another four years of Barack Obama?

If Obama wins in 2016 because he is running against a feeble Republican candidate, the man who could have stepped forward and didn’t will bear a large measure of the  responsibility.

Naturally, this would compromise his chances in 2016.

A good and serious candidate must know how to seize his moment. As the old saying goes, Carpe diem.

If he misses it, it goes away. The world is not going to sit around waiting for Chris Christie to feel that he is ready. If he does not know how to seize his moment, then people are going to feel that he was pusillanimous.

Whatever he feels personally, when the stars have aligned to make it his time, he has a duty to step forward. The alignment will surely not be the same in 2016.
As another old saying goes: He who hesitates is lost.

The Christie philosophy seems to be based on a principle that Prince Hamlet articulated: “The readiness is all.”

It wasn’t a good excuse for inaction back then; it isn’t now.

As a philosophy it didn’t work out very well for Hamlet. It is not likely to work out very well for Chris Christie either.

1 comment:

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