As you may have heard, Washington has, over the past 36 hours, descended into full-scale disarray after Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) announced he was pulling out of the race to become the next speaker of the House. It's been quite a time: There has been a lot of weeping, a lot of begging, and some people are apparently running with ideas for potential House speaker candidates that we originally wrote up as jokes. It's all pretty "blood-dimmed tide" around here, to be honest.
It's worth remembering there is a lot at stake, and not just for the GOP's House caucus: Current Speaker John Boehner cannot retire until his successor is chosen, and in the meantime, the country is still hurtling toward an important debt limit deadline. This morning, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) urged Boehner to resolve this problem now, in this hour of chaos, perhaps understanding that the window to do so is closing more rapidly than anyone believed last week.
But you know who doesn't think any of this matters? New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, that's who! Right now, the presidential hopeful is telling anyone willing to listen (so, not a lot of people) that he just don't currrrrr, dude, that's some Washington dramz, whatever.
As Heather Haddon reported for The Wall Street Journal, while Capitol Hill was convulsing over McCarthy's decision, Christie was at a town hall in New Hampshire, bragging about how he was totally tuning all of it out:
Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie said he didn’t care who became the new House speaker in the wake of the sudden exit of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy from the race for the top GOP slot.
Repeatedly sounding a populist tone in a three-day swing here in New Hampshire, the New Jersey governor said that only political insiders follow “who’s going to get the title, who gets to sit in the special big chair, who is going to get the great table at the restaurant in Washington.”
“I quite frankly don’t care who it is because the American people don’t care,” Mr. Christie told reporters after a campaign stop in New Hampshire Thursday afternoon.
Yes, apparently, Christie believes that what's at stake here is basically restaurant seating.
Just to pointedly demonstrate the extent to which he's totally over the House speaker story, Christie made sure he repeated himself on CNN, telling Jake Tapper that the "fracturing" of his party in Washington didn't matter to him at all.
"This is 'Game of Thrones' time," he said. "This is an inside Washington, D.C., game that -- I have to tell you the truth, Jake -- nobody in America could care less about. They don't care who the speaker is."
"What they care about is a Congress that will actually do something," Christie added, because he hasn't yet figured out that in order for the House of Representatives to "do" things, it needs a speaker of that House. Speakers of the House actually tend to be pretty essential to passing legislation, and, as I alluded to above, have recently become rather critical in the whole "staving off a debt-ceiling default crisis because your caucus members are lycanthropes" situation that now crops up with great regularity.
This is the sort of thing you'd think a man running for president of the United States might nominally care about, because one assumes that a presidential candidate would prefer to preside over something that's not the charred remains of a global economy.
But, that's the thing. Christie is currently polling at a wee 3 percent -- uncomfortably close to being left out of the next televised debate. And if you recall anything about Christie's performance in the last televised debate, you probably remember this moment:
CHRISTIE: Jake, listen. While I'm as entertained as anyone by this personal back-and-forth about the history of Donald [Trump] and Carly [Fiorina]'s career, for the 55-year-old construction worker out in that audience tonight who doesn't have a job, who can't fund his child's education, I've got to tell you the truth. They could care less about your careers, they care about theirs.
Let's start talking about that on this stage and stop playing -- and stop playing the games. Stop playing --
KASICH: There's a --
CHRISTIE: John -- I'm not done yet, John.
FIORINA: A track record of leadership is not a game. It is the issue in this election.
CHRISTIE: Stop -- and stop playing -- and Carly -- Carly, listen. You can interrupt everybody else on this stage, you're not going to interrupt me, OK? The fact is that we don't want to hear about your careers, back and forth and volleying back and forth about who did well and who did poorly. You're both successful people. Congratulations.
See what happened? Christie, after several moribund months of campaigning, suddenly had a moment. People applauded! Pundits took notice! And Christie, evidently, decided this would be his new schtick. Like a archly caustic manifestation of the fallacy of relative privation, he'd be the guy who bravely tells people that nobody cares about what they were talking about, man.
In essence, Christie, having ceded his role as the "tell you like it is" truth-speaker to Donald Trump's vaudeville parody of the same, is now the campaign's George Costanza, discovering the "Jerk Store" joke for the first time. All he needed was a constant supply of ready set-ups to deliver his "nobody cares" punchline, and this week, in the House GOP's hurly-burly, he found his plate of shrimp.
How long can Christie persist as a catchphrase candidate? Well, American elections are fairly fundamentally ridiculous, so... pretty far, actually! But let's face it: The way Christie can just casually dismiss a critical part of how the federal government functions as something he doesn't care about is a pretty good indicator of how much he'll have to care about governing in the future.