Last January, the governor of New Jersey told me he would improve the way he communicates with the public, acknowledging that his "spontaneity" sometimes gets him trouble.
Well, a year later, judge for yourself whether that spontaneity has been curbed -- and whether it has hurt or helped the free-talking gov. Here are Christie's seven most shocking comments of 2012. (And there were plenty more, by the way).
7) “Something may go down tonight, but it ain’t going to be jobs, sweetheart.” This is how Christie opened the year after female hecklers interrupted his first rally with Mitt Romney. The comment seemed to me like something relatively innocuous -- maybe he was referring to the fact that the women were about to get dragged off by police, or that he was about to dismantle them verbally, or that, contrary to their suggestion, the unemployment rate in New Jersey was going down. But others saw something demeaning and sexist.
6) "The fact of the matter is, I think people would have been happy to have a referendum on civil rights rather than fighting and dying in the streets in the South." Actually, governor, that's not true -- and civil rights legend Congressman John Lewis came to Trenton to hold a press conference to tell the governor as much. Christie defended the remark, which was made in an attempt to sell his plan to put gay marriage on the ballot, but he ultimately offered a rare apologizy.
5) "Numb Nuts" Christie trotted out this seldom-used, 1950s-era insult after Assemblyman Reed Gusciora compared Christie to 1950s-era segregationist governors in light of the gov's remarks about gay marriage and civil rights (see #6). A Numb Nuts Summit was eventually held, and the men made up. (Nota bene: Christie also called a Democratic senator an "arrogant SOB" this year.)
4) "You're a real big shot shooting your mouth off...Keep walking away. Keep walking! Keep walking! Keep walking!" Ice cream cone in hand, this is how Christie responded to a heckler on the Seaside Heights boardwalk -- the very boardwalk where the "Jersey Shore" crew throws down, and the very boardwalk that would be destroyed a few short months later by Superstorm Sandy. A tipster took video of the July incident and sent it to TMZ.com, the gossip site, just as button-downed Mitt Romney was considering making Christie his running mate.
3) "Did I say on topic? Are you stupid? On topic! On topic! Next question...Thank you all very much and I'm sorry for the idiot over there. Take care." When a reporter dared to ask the gov a question that was not on the topic of which the press conference was called, Christie berated him, shocking everyone except reporters. (Nota bene: Earlier in the year, he told another reporter to "get a life.")
2) "If after you graduate from law school you conduct yourself like that in a courtroom, your rear end’s going to be thrown in jail, idiot." That was how Christie handled a former Navy SEAL who got into an argument with him at a town hall meeting in Burlington County. The debate was over the merger of Rutgers and Rowan universities, and Christie didn't like being interrupted. The moment has come to exemplify the heated exchanges Christie is prone to having with constituents and reporters.
1) "The president's been great. I spoke to him three times yesterday...The president has been all over this and deserves great credit." It may have not have swung the election in favor of President Obama, as some conservatives grumbled, but Christie's repeated and effusive praise of Obama in the wake of Sandy, just days before the election, was an extraordinary moment in the hyper-partisan world of American politics. Christie told FOX News that he didn't "give a damn" about the presidential race, even though he had been the keynote speaker at the Republican convention and the campaign's most important surrogate. Christie repeatedly cited Obama's "leadership," even though a few weeks earlier he said Obama was "clutching for the light switch of leadership." The gov's Sandy moment helped to boost the his approval ratings north of 70 percent heading into a re-election year in blue New Jersey, and it gave him national bipartisan cred that could play well in a 2016 presidential general election (as for a 2016 primary, maybe not so much). It landed him on "SNL," "The Daily Show" and Barbara Walters' "Most Fascinating People" special. And it got him a hug from Bruce Springsteen, the highlight of Christie's 2012.