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Chris Christie once had a bromance with President Obama but doesn’t really know him.

As reported by The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe, Christie today made a bizarre statement about Obama: “We have a guy in the Oval Office who we don’t know. He’s been serving us for seven years and we don’t know him.” 

On the face of it, this makes little sense. Living in the White House fish bowl for seven years, Obama has been endlessly interviewed and analyzed. Like it or not, the president has a substantial record that can be judged for good and ill. He’s written an autobiography. Obama has also interacted with many politicians and even palled around with Christie after Hurricane Sandy. Can Obama really be so mysterious?

But Christie’s remarks make sense if you know that he’s pandering to GOP mythology. They partially echo long-held Republican complaints that Obama hasn’t been properly vetted. But they also play into the large set of tropes about Obama being alien, mysterious, un-American. As is his wont, Donald Trump proclaimed these themes more loudly when he suggested that Obama might have an ulterior motive (cough, cough, secret Muslim) for the deal he negotiated with Iran. “It’s almost like there has to be something else going on,” Trump said in a speech on Saturday night. 

Like many of the other Republican candidates, Christie is trying to play the role of the thinking man’s Trump, and making a fool of himself in the process.