Chris Christie was president of his high school class, played on the baseball team but sat out his senior year, and wants you to know that the guy lobbing the most serious charges against him got in trouble in Social Studies. The Jersey scandal is now all about high school, because all of us are forced to deal with high school forever.
Last year, The Wire looked at which 2016 contenders were the coolest, using the generally understood high school benchmarks of clothes, booze, dating, and musical taste. We decided that the coolest likely 2016 candidate was the New Jersey governor for the reasons listed above, plus our expert on fashion (an actual high school student) thought he was cute. The post was meant to be a joke, a satirical look at what people consider important in political candidates.
But it wasn't! The extent to which Christie was "cool" in high school is suddenly … his defense? It started at the lengthy press conference last month at which Christie dismissed the importance of David Wildstein, a high school classmate, by implying that he barely knew the guy. (Wildstein, a former senior official at the Port Authority, resigned in December as questions arose about traffic jams in Fort Lee, New Jersey.) "You know, I was the class president and athlete," Christie now-famously said. "I don't know what David was doing during that period of time." On Friday, Wildstein fired back, saying that he knew of evidence that proved Christie knew about the lane closures.
Then it got weirder. Christie (or someone) leaked an email to Politico offering talking points in rebuttal to those charges. Among the reasons to be skeptical of Wildstein:
- As a 16-year-old kid, he sued over a local school board election.
- He was publicly accused by his high school social studies teacher of deceptive behavior.
There were other points made, too, but: Can you imagine? Raise your hand if at no point in high school did a teacher think you were out of line. What's remarkable about this is that the Christie camp thinks this is relevant to the moment. That's either out of desperation or because they actually think that the weirdness of a 16-year-old says something about the believability of a man in his 40s. We can assume it's the latter in part because Christie himself used the argument that his being class president meant that he was in a separate category from Wildstein.
The Washington Post reports that Wildstein isn't the only person who was thinking about being litigious in high school. When a catcher from a rival high school moved to town, meaning Christie would probably be benched during his senior year, Christie apparently thought about similarly suing to preserve his position on the team. He asked the team's star pitcher, Scott Parsons for his thoughts.
“The family was considering consulting attorneys, to see if this could be blocked,” Parsons remembered Christie telling him. “He told me that if that happened, there was a chance that the whole team would have to forfeit the spring season. And he asked me what my thoughts were.”
Parsons told him: Don’t.
He didn't; he got benched; the team won the state title. The team's statistician, by the way, was David Wildstein.
At New York, Jonathan Chait thinks this story isn't quite the exoneration of Christie's impulses that the Post seems to imply. "Report of Christie As Youthful Non-Goon Actually Sounds Pretty Goonish," his headline reads. "We await future reports of other episodes displaying Christie's lack of vindictiveness. Like the time some dude cut in front of him in line at the deli, and Christie was going to have him beaten within an inch of his life but decided not to because there were security cameras."
There are two options here. The first is that how Christie and Wildstein acted and interacted in high school helps us understand the way that they, as adults, may have conspired to punish the town of Fort Lee. The second option is that these are just stories about kids that did weird things and onto which we're now projecting their adult behavior because we're incapable of escaping that dumb, John Hughes lens of adolescence.
Which is worse?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.