TAMPA, Fla. — What the heck happened to Chris Christie?
Everyone eagerly anticipating his signature New Jersey-style smackdown on the first night of the Republican convention walked away scratching his head wondering who or what muted the famously uncontainable, confrontational, loud-mouthed governor. His speech was so tame and devoid of red meat, it could have been delivered by George H.W. Bush at a United Nations convention.
Once it was clear how toothless a speech it would be, it became almost painful to watch him. It was like watching an episode of “Jersey Shore” with Snooki sober and fully dressed in Elizabethan garb. Or an episode with the Situation after successfully completing anger management therapy.
It was all cheese and no cracker.
There was no withering rebuke of President Obama’s economy or his mountain of failed promises. There was no evisceration of the president’s internationalist worldview or his belief that the government should be the at the intersection of all human interactions.
This is the same guy who has been known to call reporters “stupid” and teacher-union leaders “political thugs.”
This is a guy who can’t grab ice cream with his family on the beach boardwalk without getting into a hostile confrontation with a mouthy voter.
And some of his greatest hits against Mr. Obama have been simply delicious.
Like when he called him “the most ill-prepared person to assume the presidency.”
Or when he said: “After three years of Obama, we are hopeless and changeless.”
Mr. Christie’s speech was so utterly painless for Mr. Obama, he did not even utter the president’s name. Not once.
It was like Ahab pretending Moby Dick wasn’t out there.
Theories abound about what brought about this “personality-ectomy” — a term Mr. Christie himself invented earlier this month when boasting that he would never tone down his big convention speech for anyone.
But then a funny thing happened on the way to the Forum. There was a hurricane that turned out to be but a minor Tempest in Tampa but not before a whole night got lopped off the convention schedule. This jammed Mr. Christie into the same line-up as Ann Romney.
Perhaps even more importantly, Mr. Christie had to move heaven and earth to make sure that whatever he had to say didn’t overshadow what Mrs. Romney had to say. And given the current media environment, Mr. Christie’s slashing barbs most certainly would have outsold the most thoughtful and genuine tribute to the Republican nominee to date.
Not bad for her first night on the national stage.
• Charles Hurt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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