Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tampa: The Jersey mauler arrives

THE KEYNOTE speaker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, hits the stage, all bluster and raucous animation, to thunderous applause. With the tireless energy of a carnival barker and the ritual fervor of an evangelist, Christie brings the passion to the Forum, a man “proud of my party, proud of my state and proud of my country.”

Christie embarks on his own family’s hardscrabble biography — referencing the music of his idol Bruce Springsteen, he recalls the roles played by father & mother. His mother imparted a no-nonsense way of dealing with the world, a baseline resoluteness. “She was tough as nails and didn’t suffer fools at all,” he says.

He goes on to build an advertisement for himself, trumpets his achievements: the governor bested the powerful teacher’s unions, fought back against the public-sector unions, balanced three budgets and brought bare-knuckled candor to Trenton politics.

Ergo, some tough love for those gathered at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

"Our problems are big and the solutions will not be painless," he says. "We all must share in the sacrifice. Any leader that tells us differently is simply not telling the truth." A Republican talking shared sacrifice!?!

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But mostly Christie does what the keynote speaker’s supposed to do: hurl red meat into the crowd with both hands. The Jersey mauler doesn’t disappoint.

"I don't want my children and grandchildren to have to read in a history book what it was like to live in an American Century," he says. "I don't want their only inheritance to be an enormous government that has overtaxed, overspent and over-borrowed a great people into second-class citizenship."

Christie says “I want them to live in a second American Century! ... a second American Century” of solid economic progress and security, a strong military and a solid social and moral footing for the future.

Christie, who was briefly considered for the veep spot that went to Paul Ryan, did not bring his A game tonight. On MSNBC, Al Sharpton surmises that it was because Christie was reading from a teleprompter. But Christie — who for many Republican insiders was the other one who got away — seemed sour for much of his speech: severe, combustible, sometimes flat-out angry in ways that contradicted emotional aspects of the speech itself.

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HE USED the word “truth” about a half-dozen times, and spoke of how Romney would tell “us the hard truths,” and how his election would usher in “a new era of truth- telling.”

Christie and the Republicans will say it’s a reflection for the need for honesty from Washington in its dealings with the American people. But candor begins at home. If Romney would “tell us the hard truths,” he can start with the truth about Bain Capital and when he really left the company, if he has left the company. Or the truth about the labyrinthine world of his tax returns. Or the truth about the equally labyrinthine world of his tax havens. Or the politically hard truth that recognizes the need to add revenue to any viable policy prescription for repairing the national economy.

Christie fed the lions of the conservative base what they wanted tonight. They heard everything they expected to hear from the reliably pugnacious Christie, and everything they want to hear from Mitt Romney, the new Republican nominee, Thursday night, in prime time.

For maybe the first time, watched by everyone in the nation he wants to lead, he’ll bring his A+ game.

Image credit: Christie top: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite. Christie bottom: Image from pool video. GOP convention logo: © 2012 2011-12 Committee on Arrangements for the 2012 Republican National Convention.

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