Is Chris Christie already in the witness protection program? New Jersey’s governor hasn’t been charged with any crimes. But for nearly three months now, ever since Bridgegate erupted, a man who thrived on being loud and proud has gone to great lengths to become nearly invisible.
On Wednesday morning, Christie will make another non-appearance appearance. He’s traveling to Michigan to speak at two Republican campaign fundraisers, one for incumbent Governor Rick Snyder and one for U.S. Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land. The trip will follow the stealthy pattern of Christie’s recent jaunt to Florida, where he never showed his face in public and Governor Rick Scott was whisked through a back entrance to join him. Last week, Christie was in Georgia to support Governor Nathan Deal and speak at an American Enterprise Institute forum – maybe. CNN said Christie was there, but no schedule was released and the AEI and the Republican Governors Association had nothing to say about the supposed excursion.
Oh, Christie hasn’t become a complete recluse. In February he was in plain sight at a luncheon hosted by the Economic Club of Chicago, and two weeks ago, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Christie tried to sound like his good old pugnacious self, bashing Democrats, the media, and President Obama.
Less fun have been Christie’s New Jersey town-hall forays: In Mount Laurel, he was heckled about sluggish Hurricane Sandy repairs, and yesterday, in South River, chanting protestors were removed by cops.
A large part of why Christie hides on his political trips is that Democrats do their best to hassle him, ritualistically calling on the local candidate for whom he’s selling $5,000 a plate tickets to “disavow” the controversial celebrity visitor. And keeping the trips secretive is right out of the conventional wisdom scandal-control playbook, especially with the FBI and a federal prosecutor closing in on Christie allies.
And yet: Since his epic two-hour press conference on January 9, in which he answered dozens of questions, Christie has fielded exactly none from reporters.
No doubt this is a logical strategy for most politicians in trouble. But Christie isn’t most politicians. He didn’t simply enjoy the media give-and-take; he seemed to need it, viscerally. True, he hasn’t ignored the media completely: “What don’t you get about me not talking to you?” he responded once. The governor’s lawyers and consultants are surely thrilled he’s dodging reporters. But all the cloak-and-dagger just makes Chris Christie look like he really does have something to hide.