Chris Christie: Trump surrounded by ‘amateurs, weaklings’ – but it’s not really his fault
The latest in a growing line of tell-all books from within President Trump’s political orbit is hitting the shelves soon. And judging by what we’ve seen so far about Chris Christie’s book — and what we know about him as a person — there will be plenty of score-settling.
But one person has apparently escaped much of Christie’s blame for what ails the White House: Trump himself. Early book excerpts suggest Christie strains to spare Trump much responsibility for the chaos in which the president has found himself surrounded.
Trump said recently of the shutdown debate, “The buck stops with everybody,” and the former New Jersey governor seems to agree.
On Wednesday morning, Axios published a brief excerpt of the book, titled “Let Me Finish.” In it, Christie says those around Trump constitute a “revolving door of deeply flawed individuals – amateurs, grifters, weaklings, convicted and unconvicted felons — who were hustled into jobs they were never suited for, sometimes seemingly without so much as a background check via Google or Wikipedia.”
According to this and a Guardian preview of the book, Christie reserves most of his ire for Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner, whose clashes with Christie have always been defined by the fact that Christie put Kushner’s father in jail for 14 months in 2005. But according to the Guardian, many other top Trump appointees find themselves in Christie’s crosshairs as well.
In the book, Christie goes after former national security adviser Michael Flynn (“the Russian lackey and future federal felon,” and “a train wreck from beginning to end … a slow-motion car crash”). He rather unsurprisingly attacks the man who got the attorney general job for which he had been considered, Jeff Sessions (“not-ready-for-prime-time”). And Christie says that, once he was cast aside as the head of Trump’s transition team, the team led by Vice President Mike Pence pursued a “thrown-together approach” that led to badly flawed senior officials “over and over again.”
The Guardian adds that “one central character escapes relatively unscathed: Trump himself. The president is utterly fearless and a unique communicator Christie writes — and his main flaw is that he speaks on impulse and surrounds himself with people he should not trust.” Axios reports that Christie repeats this very charitable explanation for Trump’s role in all of this, saying Christie writes that Trump merely “trusts people he shouldn’t, including some of the people who are closest to him.”
It’s undoubtedly true that Trump cannot micromanage all of American government. He needs to rely on those around him to find and vet capable people for top jobs, because he can’t interview and research each candidate individually. But Christie isn’t writing about chiefs of staff for the Commerce Department or deputy undersecretaries of state for regions of Asia; Christie is talking about the people occupying some of the most important jobs around Trump — Cabinet jobs and senior White House roles.
In any line of work, a major aspect of leadership is delegating tasks and finding the best people to carry out your vision. Christie seems to dismiss the fact that Trump is too trusting as a minor character flaw that others take advantage of. He seems to believe finding yourself surrounded by a “revolving door of deeply flawed individuals — amateurs, grifters, weaklings, convicted and unconvicted felons” — is just something that happens, a freak occurrence that can mostly be chalked up to one scoundrel of a son-in-law.
Even if Trump simply delegated too much to begin with, though, at some point you’d think he needs to recognize the errors of those around him and right the ship. That’s the responsibility of any executive. But there’s basically no indication of this, as epitomized by the nomination of Ronny Jackson to head Veterans Affairs Department and the installation of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general. If Kushner is the cancer within the White House that Christie apparently believes, it’s up to Trump to recognize that — even if he is family.
Daniel Drezner has done a great job tracking the many ways in which those around Trump infantilize him as a leader. It seems safe to say Christie’s book will contribute to the catalogue.
Aaron Blake is senior political reporter, writing for The Washington Post’s The Fix.