Graves Registry: Pence and circumstance

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Poor Chris Christie. Once the Republican Party's great white hope, he has spent the waning months of his New Jersey governorship playing Carson to Donald Trump's Lord Grantham. Now, he doesn't even have a chorus of "Auld Lang Syne" to usher him into the political nether world already inhabited by the likes of Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, and the gang at Fox News.

Christie's abysmal 26 percent approval rating in his home state would hardly recommend him as a beacon of hope, but when a political party is steadfastly aligned to the best interests of only one percent of the population, 26 doesn't sound so bad. Mr. Christie recently cut funding to school districts in New Jersey to ease property tax bills. In effect, he cut desperately needed financial aid to failing inner city schools in Newark so that second home owners on the Jersey shore can afford that new Lexus and top tier cable access. Say what you will about the man, he certainly knows his Republican priorities.

Of course, there was also the bridge incident when Mr. Christie's long history of Nixonesque dirty tricks turned around and bit him in the seat of his approval ratings. Disregarding the fact that the aforementioned bridge was named for a man who famously never told a lie, Christie's crew launched a "he didn't know nothin' 'bout nothin' " blitz, bolstered by the assurances of a sympathetic Manhattan law firm that, when it came to purity, the driven snow had nothing on Chris Christie.

No one believed the vindication by the expensive law firm, so now Christie now finds himself demoted from being the GOP's resident maestro to playing second fiddle to a tone-deaf narcissist. I can't recall a descent so precipitous since Julie Andrews decided that "Star!" was a good career move after "The Sound of Music."

We are talking Trump and his alternate reality world here, so the bridge and the dismal approval ratings alone probably weren't the fatal factors. It seems that, as an ambitious prosecutor, Mr. Christie sent Mr. Trump's daughter's father-in-law away for a stint in the slammer, always a dicey move when you are trying to ingratiate yourself with someone. Charles Kushner, another billionaire real estate mogul, God help us, pleaded guilty to witness tampering, defrauding the IRS, and lying to the federal government. During a family feud, Mr. Kushner hired a prostitute to entice his brother, videotaped the encounter, and then sent the tape to his brother's wife. And you thought this kind of sleazy stuff only happened in bad novels.

Mr. Trump eventually settled on Indiana governor Mike Pence as his running mate. Pence doesn't believe in evolution, thinks climate change is a hoax, and doesn't see any harm in smoking. He carries the anti-science ball all the way to the anti-reason goalposts.

Gov. Pence was the driving force behind a blatantly unconstitutional attempt to cloak anti-gay discrimination in the guise of an assault on religious freedom. (Miffed religious zealots are of great concern to the GOP these days.) The backlash cost the state millions of dollars in lost revenue and forced Pence to claim that he didn't mean the legislation to infringe upon anyone's rights, by now a familiar litany from Republican politicians who don't get away with their hate-fueled agendas.

Mr. Trump had some buyer's remorse after the decision to go with Pence, calling advisors deep into the night before the announcement to ask if there was still time to bail. What a comfort it is to know that this is the same man who might one day be frantically calling one of his kids to ask if maybe he shouldn't have fired the missile he just launched at Moscow.

Sarah Palin, incidentally, won't be at the convention because she lives a long distance from Cleveland (I'm not kidding here). It wasn't clear if Mr. Trump was referring to actual mileage from Alaska or the considerably greater journey from the galaxy far, far way that she and her followers call home.

— Alden Graves is a regular Banner columnist


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