On Tuesday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced that he was joining the other 75 or 80 candidates for the 2016 GOP nomination for president. But during his announcement, Christie seemed to prove that he is illiterate about American history.
One of Christie’s great themes during his announcement is that the nation needs a great compromiser in chief, a candidate who will “reach across the aisle” and work with “our friends the Democrats.”
But in touting his fealty to “compromise,” Christie made an analogy to the Founding fathers that was both clumsy, and completely incorrect.
A little less than half way through his comments, Christie delivered this paragraph:
And both parties. Both parties have failed our country. Both parties have stood in the corner and held their breath and waited to get their own way. And both parties have lead us to believe that in America, a country that was built on compromise, that somehow now compromise is a dirty word. If Washington and Adams and Jefferson believed compromise was a dirty word, we’d still be under the crown of England.
Firstly, when he said, “If Washington and Adams and Jefferson believed compromise was a dirty word, we’d still be under the crown of England,” this doesn’t even make any sense at all. None of these three founders “compromised” with England. Neither did any of the other founders. Once they chose separation and independence there was no longer any thought to compromising with the British government.
So, right there that line makes no sense at all.
Now, perhaps Christie was trying to note that the founders compromised with each other as they crafted our country–though that period of our history had nothing at all to do with England. For sure it was a hamhanded analogy and in many instances, the way he put it is inaccurate.
So what about these three founders? Were they all great compromisers?
Well, you can immediately take Jefferson right out from that paragraph. Thomas Jefferson was not much of a compromiser. For that matter, he was also not around much when all the compromising was going on.
Jefferson was an idealist, for sure. He had his ideas and anyone who opposed them was deficient. Period. Ask James Madison, one of Jefferson’s greatest friends, about how much Jefferson wanted compromise! Even Madison thought Jefferson was sometimes a bit “out there” with his ideas and hidebound attitudes. Also ask John Adams how much Jefferson wanted to compromise during that vicious presidential election of 1800!
But even before that mudslinging in 1800, early in our separation from England Jefferson was a thought leader in revolution, not one touting compromise. He was the original author of the Declaration of Independence, but was a bit less involved in the major re-writes and the compromising that went on in the committee on style. In fact, he was a bit ticked off by many of the changes. He only grudgingly accepted the 86 changes to his beloved document.
Later, when the Constitution was being hammered out through a long series of compromises, Jefferson was nowhere to be seen not because he didn’t want to join the other founders but because he wasn’t even in the country! He was in France as one of our ambassadors to that nation. As a result of his assignment, Jefferson played almost no part at all in the crafting of the nation’s guiding law.
So, that leaves us with Washington and Adams. But Washington was also not a major player in the actual compromises going on early in our nation’s construction. Washington acted more as a steadying force, the adult in the room, if you will, during the Constitutional conventions. He wasn’t very verbal during the crafting of the Constitution but his steadying presence afforded great heft to the proceedings.
If Washington supported the goings on, many felt, then the work must be an important and worthy task. But he didn’t speak out very much, regardless.
That means you can sort of take Washington out of Christie’s formulation, too. He wasn’t a big player in personally cobbling together the compromises that built the nation.
Christie was right about Adams, though. John Adams was an indispensable actor during the whole period and did aid in working out ideas and compromises. So, Christie is one for three with his analogy.
In the end, Christie seems to be utterly clueless about history, but we are sure he’s all excited about “compromise.” Unfortunately he is chasing fool’s gold. Democrats do not compromise. If Christie became president with the watch word of “compromise,” all that would end up happening is that the Democrats would get about all they want and the GOP would get about nothing.
Don’t get me wrong, though, I’m not much worried about Chris Christie. He is a fool, sure, and if he became President it would be a disaster for the conservative agenda, certainly. But his candidacy has already hit is highest point. The announcement is as far as he’ll get.
Chris Christie, historical illiteracy and all, is an utter non-entity in the race for 2016.