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It’s hard to recall a former politician who was showered with more free media attention than Chris Christie this month as he peddled his new book, “Republican Rescue.” Invited to appear on a carousel of shows, Christie was all-present as journalists lined up to interview him. CNN even dedicated an entire primetime hour to him, treating the in-your-face Republican as one of the most important political voices in the country.
Consumers aren’t buying it.
A senior publishing source with access to the industry’s BookScan tabulations tells me that “Republican Rescue” sold just 2,289 copies during its first week in stores, which constitutes a colossal publishing flop. That figure does not include digital copies of the book, but based on industry sales patterns, given Christie’s weak showing in stores he likely sold only a few hundred digital ones. (On Sunday, “Republican Rescue” was ranked 15,545th at Amazon’s Kindle Store.)
In comparison to Christie’s 2,000 copies debacle, Jonathan Karl’s new book “Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show,” sold 24,000 hardcover copies the same week as the Christie failure. How Christie was able to sell so few books after lining up so much national media attention during his marketing roll-out — “This Week” and “The View,” “Fox & Friends,” along with Fox News, Fox Business, the Daily Show, HBO twice, and CNBC — represents an extraordinary disconnect.
It confirms that the deeply unpopular former New Jersey governor remains, first and foremost, a media creation. For years, he’s been propped up by the press as a populist Straight Shooter, but he left office with an approval rating in the teens, and failed spectacularly when he tried to run for president in 2016. That explains why CNN’s Christie special was a ratings disaster, coming in a distant third place among the three cable news channels that night. (During the show, CNN’s Dana Bash never once asked Christie about the BridgeGate scandal that ended his political career.)
“He left New Jersey as the most unpopular governor since the advent of polling. But he’s still catnip to the national media,” noted Politico’s Matt Friedman.
Part of the avalanche of eager Christie coverage represent a relentless sub-genre of Beltway journalism that clings to the fantasy that there’s still a functioning faction of the Republican Party that can and will stand up to Trump’s erratic and dangerous behavior.
According to yet another profile over the weekend by the Associated Press, “Christie appears to be reveling in the attention of being back in the political game after a hiatus.” Of course he’s reveling in it. The question is, why are the media providing the attention? “There has never been so much excitement over a book by a has-been politician who left office years ago with a 14% approval,” noted Salon’s Heather Digby Parton.
The larger point here isn’t that Christie’s book stiffed — lots of authors swing and miss, especially in an increasingly difficult media environment. What’s disturbing is how the media keep pretending Christie is somebody who matters in American politics. Not according to the new sales figures.
Despite the media’s reverential coverage of Christie over the years, the bully actually doesn’t stand for anything, which became obvious during his recent media tour. Out promoting his book, Christie made clear his incoherent politics revolve around his unending desire to be viewed as relevant. On that front, he’s fooled the press, but not most Americans.
Recall that last year, Christie, the self-anointed truth teller in 2021, did his best to get Trump re-elected. (He helped Trump prep for the debates, got Covid in the process, and was soon hospitalized.) After the deadly insurrection on January 6, Christie conceded that trying to overturn election results in America is a bad thing and wrote a book about how the Republican Party needs to reform itself and step away from Trump-era conspiracies and move beyond the 2020 election Big Lie.
So, he’s an unapologetic anti-Trumper, right? He views Fox News misinformation as a danger to our democracy, right? Nope and nope. Pressed during his media blitz, Christie said he might vote for Trump in 2024, and when appearing on MSNBC he refused to criticize Fox News, likely because he appeared on the network a few days later hawking his book by stressing to right-wing viewers how he supported Trump for so many years.
Americans see through Christie, yet the press worships him. They’ve been doing it for the better part of a decade, portraying him as an authentic Every Man, a master communicator, and that rare politician who cuts through the stagecraft and delivers hard truths.
"Chris Christie is someone who is magical in the way politicians can be magical," Time's Mark Halperin announced while appearing on “Meet The Press,” in 2013. And remember when ABC's Barbara Walters crowned Christie as one of her 10 Most Fascinating People, casting him as a “passionate and compassionate” politician who cannot lie?
Today, nobody cares about Chris Christie, except Beltway journalists.
(Photo: Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)
The struggling newspaper industry could use some good news, and the Biden White House is trying to deliver it.
From the New York Times’ “Local News Outlets Could Reap $1.7 Billion in Build Back Better Aid”:
If the $2.2 trillion social safety net and climate package makes it through the Senate, where it faces a stiff challenge, it will provide $1.67 billion over the next five years for newspapers, websites, radio and TV stations, and other outlets that primarily cover local news. If eligible, they could reap up to $25,000 for each locally focused journalist they employ in the first year and $15,000 in each of the next four.
FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
Kyle Kinane, “Drinking in the Shower”
For a change of pace, here’s one of my favorite stand-up comedians.
The pride of Chicago, the scruffy-voiced Kinane excels at recounting scenes that are ridiculous but feasible. He “delights in the unsophisticated, but underneath the lowbrow crudeness there’s considerable charm, technique and wit,” as the Guardian noted.
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