For readers who are new to this series, let me repeat my explanation of the title. In Volume V of Martin Gilbert’s monumental biography of Churchill (Winston S. Churchill:The Prophet of Truth: 1922-1939), we learn that an enormous poster appeared in the Strand and at other prominent points around London in the last week of July 1939. Placed by an advertising agent who was anxious “to get people thinking of the reinstatement of Churchill,” the poster asked simply: “What price Churchill?” (A photograph of the poster can be seen here.) On July 25, 1939, the Daily Mirror noted: “The writing on the wall? This giant poster is causing considerable comment.”
At the time the poster was mounted, Churchill was a parliamentary backbencher reviled by the Tory government and studiously passed over for any significant position in the Cabinet. The message intended by the inspired citizen who commissioned the poster was something to the effect: “What do we have to pay to get this guy on the case?”
Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Paul Gigot took a timeout last week to check in with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie upon his victory in the legislative session that just concluded. The interview runs in the first 14 minutes of the video below. Videos like this one and the others we have run in this series raise the question in my mind: What price Christie?
Governor Christie posted his own video message to New Jersey voters last week. In the video below, as in his interview with Gigot in the video above, Christie both looks back on his victory and looks ahead to the struggle to cap New Jersey property taxes.
Will Governor Christie prevail in the Battle of New Jersey? He himself leaves it an open question in the interview with Gigot. Even Churchill had his doubts about the outcome of the Battle of Britain. While he was driving home from Buckingham Palace on May 10, 1940, after having received the King’s appointment as prime minister, Churchill said to an aide: “I hope that it is not too late. I am very much afraid that it is. We can only do our best.”
In the decisive Cabinet meeting of May 28, Churchill addressed members of the government who were considerably less resolute than he was: “I have thought carefully in these last days whether it was part of my duty to consider entering into negotiations with That Man…. And I am convinced that every one of you would rise up and tear me down from my place if I were for one moment to contemplate parley or surrender. If this long island story of ours is to end at last, let it end only when each one of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground.” The effect on his colleagues was electrifying.
Commenting on this episode in Churchill on Leadership, Steven Hayward writes: “[F]rom time to time, and especially in a crisis, the genuine leader must simply exert his personal force and summon up his willfulness.” One senses that Governor Christie has absorbed this particular Churchillian lesson (not that he wouldn’t appreciate a copy of Hayward’s superb handbook for inspiration).
On this point see the New Jersey Star-Ledger’s review of Governor Christie’s battle with the Democratic majority in the New Jersey legislature during the session just concluded. The article shrewdly credits one aspect in particular of Governor Christie’s approach to the battle: “What Christie knew how to do was decide.”
PAUL joins the bandwagon: I was not on the Christie bandwagon until I saw his interview with Gigot. Facing down idiot reporters and irate union members is certainly God’s work, but not enough to make me fall for a politician.
I now see, however, that I wasn’t paying enough attention to the substance of Christie’s underlying program. Hearing him articulate it in the context of a serious interview has converted me.
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“Arise and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.” Winston Churchill
“Proclaim Liberty throughout All the land unto All the Inhabitants Thereof.” Inscription on the Liberty Bell