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Would Our Nation’s Not Yet President Lie to You?

Governor Christie and President Obama

Chris Christie was just reelected governor of New Jersey, and now he’s out on tour! Of the terrible Sunday morning political talk shows, that is, where his intention is to brag about said reelection. And my goodness, what a suave fellow. He can make you believe anything.

I know that at the moment it’s unpopular, if not downright gauche, to question the man who’s more or less already been ceded the next presidential election by our top pundits . . . but sometimes he doesn’t make any sense? Like, he’s all swagger—really good swagger, at that!—but the words he uses add up to nothing logical? Consider this moment in his interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos:

STEPHANOPOULOS: There’s also been a lot of questions about the president’s health care plan. You called on him to apologize this week. He seemed to take your advice, a couple of days later he did apologize for people who were getting their health plans canceled.

What should he do next? Are you for delay in further implementation of the law?

CHRISTIE: Listen, anybody who has run anything in their lives could see this coming a mile away. And that’s why we didn’t do a state-based health exchange. We didn’t do it because we could see that this whole program was going to be a problem. And so that the president’s biggest problem right now is he’s got to tell the truth and we have seen this in New Jersey. I have told a lot of hard truths in New Jersey that people didn’t necessarily agree with, but they give you credit for looking them in the eye and telling them the truth.

Yes, anyone who’s ever led anything could see these major problems coming a mile away, says Bernie Madoff’s lobbyist. Sure, we can believe that! Everyone expected Obamacare to have a rocky rollout and require legislative maintenance, as big programs always will.

But then: “And that’s why we didn’t do a state-based health exchange. We didn’t do it because we could see that this whole program was going to be a problem.”

Well, this is a complete fib. The reason that Chris Christie did not set up a state-based health exchange is that doing so would have hurt his chances to win the Republican nomination for president. And while there are no excuses for, say, the national exchange website not working, if Chris Christie had set up a state-based health exchange, his state’s Obamacare journey would be going much more smoothly now. States like Kentucky, California, Maryland, Oregon, and other places that set up their own exchanges are not as plagued with many of the problems afflicting the overworked national exchange. If he could see that this “whole program was going to be a problem,” either because of people receiving policy cancellation notices or because of a poorly functioning website, then the logical thing to do would have been to set up a New Jersey-specific exchange that would have made it easier for everyone to sign up for new health insurance plans.

Contrast his insurance exchange talk with his response to a follow-up question on the Medicaid expansion:

STEPHANOPOULOS: You didn’t set up an exchange, but you did accept the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare. And some, again, of your potential rivals like Ted Cruz are going to come after you on that. What’s your answer?

CHRISTIE: I do what’s best for the people in the state of New Jersey every day. And expanding Medicaid in the state of New Jersey, given how expansive our program already was, it was a relatively small expansion. But it’s going to mean a lot. And it’s also going to benefit New Jersey’s budget.

See, here’s what makes me different than a lot of these other guys. I’m going to do what I think is right for the people who elected me. And a lot of these folks are always trying to put their finger in the wind and see which way the wind is blowing that day. My job is to run the state of New Jersey. That’s what I do every day. And the fact is, George, when you do that, people across the spectrum give you credit. And that’s what the elections results, 61 percent of the vote on Tuesday, show.

These soliloquies that bookend each and every response get tiresome, don’t they? It’s like there’s a bullshitty pattern forming in each answer from Mr. No Bullshit: Look, I’ve got to do what’s best for New Jersey. And that means [ARGLE BARGLE WHATEVER YADDA YADDA YADDA VOMIT]. People like hard truths and honesty. And that’s why New Jersey reelected me governor. That’s the only explanation we can see for how, in the interests of New Jersey, it was logical for him to accept the Medicaid expansion but not the state-based exchange. Certainly nothing to do with the overwhelming and bipartisan popularity of the Medicaid expansion.

And yet he can sell it so well! If you can’t be the politician who actually sells people hard truths and thus earns their respect—not easy!—then the second-best option, and Christie’s gift, is to sound like the politician who sells people hard truths and thus earns their respect. In this interview, we have a politician coming up with a nonsensical tale to cover up decisions made to protect his own political future. But his voice? And his body language? Maybe? Sound oh so reasonable: Look, George, we sat down at the table with a bunch of data and this is what needed to be done, period. He’ll go far, this one.