Will Chris Christie get the last laugh?

With Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff, Nick Ayers, declining to serve as the new minder for Presid...

Posted: Dec 11, 2018 6:11 PM
Updated: Dec 11, 2018 6:11 PM

With Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff, Nick Ayers, declining to serve as the new minder for President Donald Trump (known in some quarters as Individual-1), the new game in Washington seems to be a version of hot potato. The effort to fill the job has led to the ironic, if perhaps unlikely, possibility that former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whom Trump has disrespected in the past, might be asked to fill the post.

One after another, other potential candidates for White House chief of staff are saying, "Don't look at me," and it's becoming clear that Trump has degraded the value of yet another element of the national power structure.

Chris Christie

Donald Trump

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

John Kelly

Mike Pence

Nick Ayers

Political Figures - US

Politics

US federal government

White House

Previously held by the likes of James Baker III and Leon Panetta, the job that John Kelly will vacate at the end of this month has traditionally been regarded as one of the most important in the world. Chiefs have generally enjoyed more engagement with the president than anyone else on his staff. So, if Kelly's role is vacant in the new year, it would be a problem.

As President, and previously as a New York businessman, Trump has been the kind of boss whom accomplished, self-possessed men and women would learn to avoid. A bully with a penchant for wild claims and ethically dubious schemes, he has a tendency to bring out the worst in those around him.

But Kelly is more formidable than most in the administration: He was a Marine Corps general and Department of Homeland Security secretary before taking the chief of staff position. Kelly was supposed to bring order and discipline to the White House and to Trump. Instead, he wound up marginalized to such a degree that he and the President reportedly stopped speaking.

Ayers' name has been bandied about for months. He is, by all accounts, a sharp-elbowed political operator, and as Pence's top aide ran a tight ship. Ayers is also regarded as an exceedingly astute judge of political wind (to continue the nautical analogy) and when asked to replace Kelly he decided not only to decline but also to leave his position as Pence's chief of staff to devote himself to a well-funded pro-Trump political action committee. At 36, Ayers has already built a personal fortune in excess of $12 million through political work.

What Ayers surely recognized was that as chief of staff he would have been swamped by Trump controversies and, potentially, drawn into his schemes and scandals. A taxpayer-funded job would have required that Ayers meet legal and ethical standards that might be hard to maintain in the face of Trump's everyday demands. Rex Tillerson, former secretary of state, recently revealed that he had often resisted Trump requests that would have "violated the law." Wouldn't a chief of staff face the same strain?

The list of alternative chief of staff candidates, which was floated after Ayers turned down the job, has included Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, budget director Mick Mulvaney, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, US Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Christie, who lost the competition to be Trump's running mate in 2016 and was then stiffed when the President handed out plum jobs in his administration.

(Christie may have been undermined at the time by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner. When he was a US attorney, Christie prosecuted Kushner's father. The elder Kushner went to prison. Sons tend not to forget such things.)

Among all the boldface names mentioned for the job, Christie is one of the few who has not demurred with a comment similar to "I really like the job I have" (which is another way of saying, "There's no way I'll accept that thankless job"). Meadows has also indicated he would be open to the role, saying it would be an honor to get the offer. His history with Trump isn't as complicated as Christie's. However, he lacks the former governor's executive experience, which could come in handy in the top White House job.

By letting his name stay in the mix, Christie is either signaling he's got less self-respect than the average politician or he's setting up Trump for a creative bit of payback.

Remember, Christie also endured Trump's mockery about his weight and became fodder for commentators who said he looked like Trump's campaign-trail hostage.

One might think that Christie would answer speculation about his coming to the White House with a New Jersey-style "fuggedaboutit." However, by letting the idea breathe he may actually be putting himself in a no-lose situation: If he waits for an actual offer, he can reclaim his dignity by turning it down, or he can take it and create the appearance that Trump needs him for political survival.

Who would have thought that as Trump turned the chief of staff's job into a kind of booby prize he was also empowering Chris Christie? No one did. But with this most-unlikely President, such a bizarre turn makes a perverse kind of sense.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 489116

Reported Deaths: 6614
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1014901592
Ramsey43327810
Dakota36619394
Anoka33496391
Washington22208262
Stearns18822202
St. Louis14887265
Scott13403107
Wright12609116
Olmsted1185990
Sherburne878574
Carver787641
Clay695588
Rice677691
Blue Earth601035
Kandiyohi581274
Crow Wing523582
Chisago501745
Otter Tail486071
Benton450990
Winona419749
Mower410831
Douglas394568
Goodhue389069
Nobles387247
Polk345063
McLeod341250
Beltrami338951
Morrison327747
Becker314842
Itasca314646
Lyon313845
Isanti309456
Steele303611
Carlton300449
Freeborn286424
Pine283216
Nicollet262441
Todd249730
Brown248237
Le Sueur238120
Mille Lacs229447
Cass221224
Waseca210417
Meeker208134
Martin190829
Wabasha18733
Roseau181017
Hubbard161041
Houston158214
Dodge15404
Renville152640
Redwood147127
Fillmore13969
Pennington138716
Chippewa136935
Cottonwood136020
Wadena131420
Faribault124917
Aitkin119133
Sibley118310
Watonwan11828
Rock116314
Kanabec108820
Pipestone101824
Yellow Medicine97717
Murray9548
Jackson94610
Swift87818
Pope8165
Marshall78615
Stevens7478
Lake74218
Clearwater72014
Lac qui Parle68716
Wilkin67711
Koochiching62111
Big Stone5173
Lincoln5122
Grant4928
Norman4798
Unassigned44768
Mahnomen4437
Kittson41021
Red Lake3615
Traverse3115
Lake of the Woods2221
Cook1190

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 337676

Reported Deaths: 5494
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk52087560
Linn19512317
Scott17167212
Black Hawk14970293
Woodbury13847214
Johnson1317075
Dubuque12450196
Dallas1022593
Pottawattamie9897146
Story965045
Warren514976
Clinton502684
Cerro Gordo501383
Webster495788
Sioux480369
Marshall465273
Des Moines428461
Muscatine426393
Buena Vista413237
Wapello4059110
Jasper387767
Plymouth368978
Lee354653
Marion341571
Jones285155
Henry279837
Bremer270555
Carroll266948
Crawford253635
Boone244330
Benton241154
Washington239547
Mahaska215746
Jackson210339
Dickinson204240
Tama203065
Kossuth198655
Delaware186240
Clay184425
Winneshiek183628
Fayette179335
Page178119
Buchanan177829
Wright174531
Hamilton173942
Cedar172723
Hardin170239
Harrison167670
Clayton160254
Butler159331
Mills148520
Floyd148141
Poweshiek148030
Cherokee146236
Lyon145741
Allamakee144848
Madison143218
Iowa140723
Hancock138030
Grundy132430
Winnebago130531
Calhoun129611
Cass129651
Jefferson128634
Appanoose123247
Louisa122644
Mitchell120740
Chickasaw119915
Union119331
Sac118818
Shelby117634
Emmet115340
Humboldt113725
Franklin109719
Guthrie109628
Palo Alto101721
Howard99722
Unassigned9720
Montgomery96936
Clarke95120
Keokuk92429
Monroe90028
Ida81832
Adair81630
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Davis76623
Monona76527
Greene73110
Lucas72221
Osceola68315
Worth6678
Taylor64112
Decatur5719
Fremont5619
Van Buren53718
Ringgold50620
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Wayne47221
Adams3194
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