Here’s something you need to know about this new biography of Gov. Chris Christie:
There are nearly 500 words on Page 265. The authors contributed 33 of those words.
The rest of the verbiage comes straight from the governor’s mouth.
Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because Christie has lots to say, and he is without question one of the most compelling figures in national politics today. But still, the authors, both of them accomplished journalists, clearly withheld a fair measure of professional skepticism in exchange for unfettered access to the governor, his wife, his family, his friends and the occasional antagonist. The result is a book-length magazine article with some decent quotes, an occasional insight and a rehash of the governor’s career. Not exactly an “inside story,” at least not if you read a newspaper every now and again.
The Chris Christie who emerges from these pages is, in the authors’ words, “tenacious, fearless, blunt, intelligent and supremely confident, a leader since childhood.” His antagonists invariably are portrayed as corrupt or incompetent, deserving of Christie’s (and the authors’) absolute contempt.
There is precious little gray in this portrait of the governor and New Jersey, which the authors repeatedly call the “Soprano State,” an overt plug for Ingle’s previous book of the same name. What drove Christie to become an avenging angel, the scourge not only of mobsters and corrupt politicians, but all the slackers, time-servers and numbnuts in Trenton? The authors provide readers with little insight into the sources of Christie’s self-righteousness and moral certainty. The man is tenacious and fearless, okay? What kind of a jerk needs to know more?
Whatever the sources of Christie’s character, there is no question that the man is a political star, in part because he has summoned the nerve to challenge an unacceptable status quo in New Jersey politics. (Conflict-of-interest note: The governor made me, a state employee, pay more for my health benefits, and I applaud him for that absolutely necessary reform.) The authors cheer him on as he takes on various villains, from the teachers’ union to get-along, go-along pols in Morris County to Jon Corzine’s out-of-touch advisers.
But the book’s portrayal of Christie lacks the sort of texture that makes for compelling reading.
Ironically, Christie, who could reprint entire chapters of this book as campaign literature, deserves better. He is a complex man governing a complex state.
But there is no complexity in this one-sided biography.