If Gov. Chris Christie had patted himself on the back any harder in his farewell address to New Jersey last week, he’d have needed the ministrations of a good chiropractor. But all signs suggest that New Jerseyans cannot wait to see the door slam shut behind him when he leaves office on Tuesday after eight storm-tossed, aspersion-fueled years. A poll taken before the November elections by Suffolk University in Boston put his approval rating at 14 percent. You practically need a microscope to find the cohort that think he’s done a splendid job.
This isn’t to say Mr. Christie has no reason to crow. He kept property taxes down and held the growth rate of state debt in check. Unemployment in New Jersey was cut in half on his watch (though other states did better). He worked hard to revive the Jersey Shore after Hurricane Sandy’s devastation, and threw life preservers to flailing cities like Camden and Atlantic City. But his miscalculations could be epic, perhaps none more damaging than his decision in 2010 to block a badly needed train tunnel to Manhattan under the Hudson River. The torment that now routinely afflicts New Jersey rail commuters underlines his shortsightedness.
Above all, his Don Rickles shtick — politics by insult — wore thin. There may be a lesson in it for his pal President Trump, who is cut from similar cloth. (Mr. Christie told reporters in exit interviews that he’d have won the Republican nomination and the presidency if Mr. Trump had not entered the 2016 race. But it turned out he wasn’t as skilled a Trump as Mr. Trump was.) The coarse, bullying style favored by both men may entertain people for a while, but the act eventually grows tiresome. The president might bear in mind that Mr. Christie’s plummet to 14 percent approval came after he’d won 60 percent of the vote in 2013. Mr. Trump, wallowing in the 30s, can only dream of 60 percent.
Mr. Christie will probably never shake free of the scandal known as Bridgegate, the 2013 plot by some of his underlings to shut down lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge to make life miserable for the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee and his constituents. In recent weeks, for the umpteenth time, the governor insisted he had nothing to do with that outrage. “It’s insulting to me that people think I would participate in something like that,” he told Times reporters in an interview before the new year.
He simply doesn’t get it. Those minions would never have dared to gleefully inflict pain on a municipality if they believed for a second that doing so would displease the boss. That they thought the traffic nightmare they created would tickle Mr. Christie says as much about him as it does about them.
Enduring memories of his tenure will be of those traffic jams, of the governor happily sunning himself last July on a beach that was closed to the public during a budget dispute, of Mr. Christie standing almost worshipfully behind Mr. Trump during the 2016 campaign like a footman out of “Downton Abbey.”