Carl Golden, 5/31/2015 [Archive]

Christie Forced to go on the Offensive

By Carl Golden

Kenny Stabler, the free-spirited quarterback of the Oakland Raiders in the 1970's, was asked by a reporter his understanding of the following quote by author Jack London:

"I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time."

Stabler, who once said he studied his team's playbook by the light from the jukebox, pondered the question for a moment and replied: "Throw deep."

In ramping up his undeclared but increasingly likely candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie appears to have become a student of both the erudite London and the freewheeling Stabler.

With a series of policy speeches on issues ranging from dramatic revisions in Social Security and Medicare to unyielding support for the ongoing massive private data collection by government, Christie's embraced the "throw deep" strategy in an effort to separate himself from the growing herd of contenders for the nomination.

With polls consistently placing him anywhere from fourth to eighth place --- well out of contention --- Christie understands that in a field of as many as 18, he's in danger of becoming just another face in the crowd, fighting to escape a space cluttered with governors, former governors, senators, former senators, and private citizens all of whom have decided they're fit and qualified to become the leader of the Free World.

To succeed, it's necessary to portray his rivals as timid, poll-driven and focus group tested souls fearful of offering a detailed vision of what they'd do to change the direction of the nation.

While his subtle digs at frontrunners --- former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and current Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker --- haven't elicited a response from either one --- at least not publicly --- Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has shown he's willing to engage Christie over the data collection issue.

Drawing on his experience as United States Attorney, Christie has staked out an exceptionally hard line position, arguing that the government's snooping activities are an essential tool in the fight against terrorism and there've been no proven instances of individual civil liberties being violated.

He's characterized opponents as misguided, making the rather macabre observation that "you have no civil liberties when you're in a coffin."

Paul has adopted an equally feet-in-concrete position against renewal of the Patriot Act which authorizes the data collection operation, contending there is no evidence it has thwarted any terrorist plots and is a blatantly unconstitutional intrusion into the private lives of American citizens.

If Christie makes the cut for the initial candidate's debate in August by finishing somewhere in the top 10, there's no doubt he'll square off with Paul over the issue in full view of millions of viewers and voters.

Christie's speeches on entitlement reform, a greatly strengthened and vastly more expensive military capability, and dramatic changes in the nation's tax code are part of his overall strategy playing off his self-description as the "tell it like it is" governor who's twice won election in a solidly Democratic state.

He's gone against the grain of conventional wisdom that to offer ideas and propose solutions is to invite criticism and pushback and he's been the target of both.

He hasn't made significant headway, though, and he continues to lag in polls, stuck in the second tier and often failing to even receive a mention in news accounts and commentaries by the national media.

In truth, his strategic options were so limited that carrying the fight to his rivals while presenting himself as a fearless man of ideas who's willing to put those ideas into practice was his only practical choice.

He seems intent to --- in London's words --- "burn out in a brilliant blaze" or "be a superb meteor."

He also wants to prove he has the arm to "throw deep."

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©Copyright 2015 Carl Golden, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. You can reach him at cgolden1937@gmail.

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