Interviews

Is 'bully' Chris Christie president material?

Presidential historian Doug Wead weighs in

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," October 30, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right, you have heard the audio a gazillion times. I'm not even going to play it. Suffice it to say you're familiar with it, Chris Christie getting feisty again.

That's nothing new. It's almost 24/7 for the governor, but, for a leader, well, presidential historian Doug Wead says this kind of stuff risks getting old.

Your argument is, it's all right to have a temper, but spread it out a little bit, right?

(LAUGHTER)

DOUG WEAD, FORMER ADVISER TO PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH: Yes.

And the difference for Governor Christie is, he already has a reputation as a bully. And this kind of confirms it, whereas, with Kennedy, Reagan, even George Herbert Walker Bush, their brief flashes of temper -- you remember Bush had that moment of shouting down Dan Rather on live TV.

CAVUTO: Yes. Yes.

WEAD: And Reagan, of course, up in New Hampshire at the debate.

Those were moments where their anger countered a negative perception. Kennedy was seen as too young, following Eisenhower. Does he have the strength to lead? Reagan was seen as too old. Can this old man lead us? And Bush was considered too weak.

CAVUTO: Well, it also showed an unexpected backbone when you -- when even their lieutenants weren't expecting it, in this case, with John Kennedy, a general who was in the wrong place at the wrong time on the receiving end of a very angry commander in chief over a certain hospital bed afforded his then-pregnant wife.

This is John Kennedy, the tape not a lot of people have heard. Go back in time.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GENERAL: Yes, sir.

FORMER PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY: That Air Force has caused itself more grief with that silly bastard. Did you see The Post this morning?

GENERAL: Yes, sir, I'm looking at it.

KENNEDY: Did you see that fellow's picture by the bed?

GENERAL: Yes, sir.

KENNEDY: And did you see that furniture they bought from Jordan Marsh? What the hell did they let the reporters in there for? Are they crazy up there?

Now you know what's going to do -- any congressman is going to get up and say, gosh, if they can throw away $5,000 on this, let's cut them another billion dollars. You just sank the Air Force budget. They're crazy up there. Are they crazy? That silly bastard with his picture next to the bed?

GENERAL: Sir, I'm appalled, but...

KENNEDY: I want to find out if we paid for that furniture, because I want it go back to Jordan Marsh.

GENERAL: All right, sir.

KENNEDY: Then I want -- that fellow's incompetent who had his picture taken next to Mrs. Kennedy's bed, if that's what it is. I mean, he's a silly bastard. I wouldn't have him running a cat house! Christ, they're not all incompetent! Is that the way they are throwing money around over there? You better look into it, especially when you told me that hadn't spent a cent.

GENERAL: Well, sir, this is obviously...

KENNEDY: This is obviously a f*** up.

GENERAL: That's right.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

CAVUTO: Whoa.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: That was from the calm, genteel John Kennedy.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: Of course, this only came to light years after his death. But I think the general on the receiving end of that got the message loud and clear, because this was behavior that he didn't tend to expect out of Kennedy, huh?

WEAD: That's right.

(LAUGHTER)

WEAD: And, you know, the president is the president. I once saw a movie, and Kevin Costner was playing special assistant to the president during the big crisis, six-day crisis with Kennedy and the showdown with Khrushchev.

And was kind of telling the president what to do. And I was thinking from my own time in the White House, but it doesn't -- it doesn't work like that. The president is the boss. He is the boss.

CAVUTO: But when -- a momentary time when you show your anger when it's just -- in that case, it was clearly justified. He thought, because of these pictures getting released, it would hurt the budget he wanted for the Air Force, a justifiable reason to fly off the handle.

Ronald Reagan, before he became president, I'm thinking of that time in a debate when a lot of people thought after he had slipped in Iowa that he was toast, and then he took the moment by storm. This is back in 1980. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. Green...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you turn that microphone off, please?

(CROSSTALK)

REAGAN: I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAVUTO: That turned it around for him.

WEAD: It id.

CAVUTO: He went on to be elected in a landslide, and romp all past his Republican opponents, to say nothing of a guy named Jimmy Carter that Fall.

That anger was well-placed and well-timed, wasn't it?

WEAD: It was a defining moment for him. And it showed he was a leader. It showed leadership.

That's why I'm saying it's a little bit different with Christie.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Why? Why is it different with Christie? You don't think it's showing leadership to tell someone to shut up or to get someone's face or that you say it's OK, but you do it now and then? What?

WEAD: Because Reagan had -- he had the image of a genial, kind, old man who may not be up to -- he was an anti-communist warrior, but he's now getting old.

CAVUTO: Right.

WEAD: He may not be up to taking on the Soviet Union. So his anger was countering this perception of weakness, whereas, with Christie, his anger is confirming a weakness, which is, you're a bully. So that's how it's different.

CAVUTO: Yes. Well put. Doug Wead, thank you very, very much.

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