Chris Christie and the Perils of Power

A wise citizenry would take this episode as a warning about the dangers of ceding control over our lives to the government.

Chris ChristieNew Jersey GovernmentMany Americans might have learned from watching Chris Christie's marathon news conference on Thursday, but none more than Meryl Streep. If there is anything she doesn't know about acting, the governor of New Jersey is the person who could teach her. No one has ever done a more convincing portrayal of incredulous innocence than his.

It may be that he is far more sinned against than sinning, and that his own motives are so pure that he could never imagine bad intentions on the part of his aides. But if he is blameless, then he is also arrogant.

This is the same governor who, when state legislators raised questions about the now-infamous lane closures on the George Washington Bridge, snorted that "it just shows you they really have nothing to do." In December, however, bridge workers testifying under subpoena before a legislative committee said the closures were "unprecedented" and "wrong."

That happened a month ago. The closures happened four months ago. But not until the past few days did Christie show any curiosity about actions that caused nightmarish traffic jams for his constituents over four days.

The message Christie sent was that it was beneath him to consider the possibility that members of his administration might misuse their positions. Either he was unjustifiably certain that the charges were baseless then, or he is dissembling now. Neither makes him look good.

I don't mean to sound cynical, even when events invite it. Some people go into politics for wholesome reasons, and Christie may be one of them. He's not accused of using his office to get rich. He made his name as a prosecutor going after public corruption.

He certainly didn't enter politics to poll-test every utterance, for fear of being voted out of office. His blunt and sometimes caustic candor suggests that he has real convictions he wants to advance.

But just because he may think in terms of the public good doesn't mean everyone around him does. Many people seek power, or proximity to power, merely because they like exercising control over others or punishing their enemies. Some of those close to Christie got obvious pleasure in petty revenge.

It's not enough for officeholders to be upright. They also have to choose associates who can resist temptation. A governor who is oblivious to potential abuses by his staff is like a dog owner who lets his Rottweiler loose on a kindergarten playground. Maybe nothing will happen, but it's irresponsible to take the chance.

A worse possibility is that Christie was not exactly heedless of such behavior but encouraged it. Given his fervent denials, it's hard to believe evidence will emerge that he approved the lane closing. But it's also hard to believe that his aides went rogue, doing things they knew he would abhor. Christie doesn't seem like the kind of boss whose tolerance for mischief you would want to test.

They have some reason to think he's happy to seek revenge on political opponents. Journalists have documented numerous acts of retribution—such as stripping funding for a Rutgers professor who, as a member of a redistricting commission, voted against a plan the governor wanted. Christie does not have a thick skin when it comes to dissent.

He often gives the impression that the authority granted him by voters is his to use however vigorously and aggressively he sees fit. Elected officials ought to treat it as a conditional loan, to be exercised with great care and humility. Christie's full-throttle approach encourages abuse.

It's our good fortune that modern technology makes it easier to document such abuse, at least when committed by people too careless to take obvious precautions.

Had Christie's deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, whispered, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" to Port Authority official David Wildstein as they sat in a Starbucks, she'd still have her job. If he had chortled over kids being late to school on a stroll with a colleague, his amusement would be lost to history.

A wise citizenry would take this episode as a warning about the dangers of ceding control over our lives to the government. Anytime someone wants to expand some power of government, here's what you should assume: Kelly and Wildstein will be the ones exercising it.

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  • Snark Plissken||

    A governor who is oblivious to potential abuses by his staff is like a dog owner who lets his Rottweiler loose on a kindergarten playground.

    No, the dog owner would get arrested.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    A governor who is oblivious to potential abuses by his staff is like a dog owner who lets his Rottweiler Warty loose on a kindergarten playground.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Completely OT but....You might be interested in this textbook, Joe: The Second Law of Economics: Energy, Entropy, and the Origins of Wealth

    I haven't read it, I just stumbled across the title in Mendeley.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    This is the same governor who, when state legislators raised questions about the now-infamous lane closures on the George Washington Bridge, snorted that "it just shows you they really have nothing to do."

    If he wanted to look presidential, he should used the phrase "phony scandal". The country doesn't want another unaccountable bully in the White House.

  • WTF||

    The country doesn't want another unaccountable bully in the White House.

    I think that remains to be seen.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Well, not an unattractive one.

  • WTF||

    That's very size-ist of you, you fat-shaming otherer!

  • Drake||

    And they all do have other things to do - like their 3 other state jobs.

  • RishJoMo||

    I think the only thing Christie cares about is where the next platter of cheeseburgers is coming from lol.

    www.Anon-Global.tk

  • Live Free or Diet||

    Since this anonbot clearly reads and understands English, I should respond to the allegation against cheeseburgers.

    It's the soda, bun and fries (in order from worst to best) that cause fat cells to be filled. That's confirmed. Oddly, the idea in dispute is that filling fat cells is what makes you fat.

  • Free Society||

    I'm not even mad he's a bot. In fact, I'm kind of impressed.

  • Free Society||

    You know we've reached the singularity when even machines crack jokes about Christie's weight.

  • Drake||

    What Difference, At This Point, Does It Make?

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Why the gratuitous jab at Rottweilers?

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Because they take away dog jobs from honest, hard-working American breeds, like the Chinook.

  • WTF||

    Those seem like cool dogs.

  • Midnite||

    Indeed

  • ||

    This is the guy the Rs wanted to put up for 2016? I guess they are taking their cues from the Ds and putting up their best banana republic dictator wannabe.

    Thinking of a Fauxcahontas / Chrispy Creme contest makes a sharp pain shoot through my temples.

  • wareagle||

    the R's pretend that Christie is some sort of massive departure from Romney, as opposed to a bulkier, Catholic version who is even more of statist. Then again, politics is about winning. Period.

  • John||

    Romney has actual experience in business and was by all accounts good at it. Romney is also by all accounts a very nice and good person. Fatso has never worked in business and even his supporters admit he is an asshole. Fatso is no Romney. He is much much worse.

  • John||

    I can't stand Christie and am as happy to as anyone to see him go down. At the same time, the rank hypocrisy of the media in this is just appalling. The same media that has spent five years excusing and ignoring the worst abuses of executive power since Nixon, now is clutching its pearls over a traffic jam? Beyond the Obama abuses, it was pretty much proven that Bloomburg plowed the streets of favorite cronies first during the big blizzard of Christmas of 2010. I would bet there are a million examples of Democratic thugs like Emmanuel and Cuomo doing this kind of thing. So it bugs me a bit to all of the sudden make fatso an example.

    At the same time, maybe this will backfire. Does the court media want to make political abuse of executive power a subject of a national conversation? Maybe I am being optimistic here. But doesn't taking fatso down over a traffic jam on the GW Bridge make it a bit harder to ignore the dozens of people who got visits from the FBI after they showed up on the public radar criticizing the President?

  • tarran||

    But doesn't taking fatso down over a traffic jam on the GW Bridge make it a bit harder to ignore the dozens of people who got visits from the FBI after they showed up on the public radar criticizing the President?

    I think it does. Based on my highly objective survey sampling a few members of my proggie & conservative relations, the non proggies think the media are a bunch of lying bastards and are pretty aware of the scandals. Ditto the right wing proggies.

    The left wing proggies, on the other hand, are starting to waver. It used to be they presented a united front of believing the NYT had given them the whole story and that any-body who said something contradictory or not covered in the times was just regurgitating right wing talking points.

    But I see signs that some realize they've been lied to and are struggling with the crisis of faith that the lies have triggered.

    Comically, in the case of my mega-connected to the Boston Brahmin wing of the local Democratic Party aunt, the crisis of faith was triggered by the lies promoting the cult of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming.

  • John||

    Your Proggie Beacon Hill aunt doesn't buy into the AGW cult? That is interesting. I didn't think such a Prog existed.

  • tarran||

    She may be a proggie, but she also owns a farm with a tenant farmer.

    So the fact that the climate hasn't warmed over the past 16 years hadn't escaped her notice.

    Also they were kids in the 1940's. They remember the hurricanes of that era, so the breathless ZOMG EXTREME WEATHERZZZ reporting clashed with her personal memories.

  • UCrawford||

    I still remember in the 1970s the catastrophic predictions of global cooling and how the next Ice Age was almost upon us. Then, when it didn't happen, the Chicken Littles of climate "science" changed their tune to global warming and tried to pretend the global cooling hysteria never happened. Now they're going to "climate change", which is apparently a way to hedge their bets against making an actual prediction that they'll be held accountable for.

    After awhile, if you pay attention to the history, you start to realize that the climatologists constantly predicting the apocalypse are nothing more than an anti-business, anti-human millenarian cult. They don't care if their predictions are accurate, just so long as humans and corporations are blamed for bringing the end of the world.

  • Tony||

    You're probably suffering from a false memory. There was like one article about global cooling, and now according to the denier cult it was the consensus of all of science.

    At any rate, bad predictions in the past do not affect present facts. You're asserting that among those facts is a petty conspiracy involving most of the scientific and political communities of the world. That's quite a claim too, so how about some evidence?

  • Free Society||

    I think they're just calling to account the failing credibility of the 'climate change' soothsayers.

  • Number 2||

    The real scandal in the GWB story is the Port Authority itself, a patronage pit into which both parties reward their allies and loyalists with high-paid publicly-funded jobs. The GWB thing would not have happened if the Port Authority had not been staffed by political hacks.

    But since this implicates both parties and, like Chapman's article, reflects badly on government itself, you can rest assured that no one will talk about it.

  • On The Road To Mandalay||

    ALL politicians, regardless of party, "use the authority granted to them by the voters as they see fit". It may end badly for them but they have been doing this since the country was founded.

    Getting elected to office beginning at the city and county levels and on up gives most of them the idea that they have a special power broker blank check.

    This arrogant tub of lard is no exception. Whatever his pretensions, the man is another mediocre politician. He is one of many produced by this country for decades now.

  • kevino||

    RE: "It's our good fortune that modern technology makes it easier to document such abuse, at least when committed by people too careless to take obvious precautions."

    What would REALLY be good is to have a media establishment that investigated wrong-doing and abuse by democrats with the same fervor and devotion that they do when going after republicans. While the lame-stream media is investigating Governor Christie, they have either ignored President Obama's scandals (e.g. IRS, DOJ, NSA, Obamacare no-bid contract awarded to Michelle Obama's friend, Obamacare rollout) or, even worse, they have provided cover fore the administration. Every week, we are treated to the media establishment parroting democratic talking points and making excuses for the worse abuses in US History since President Nixon resigned.

  • Jackand Ace||

    Please. You know all about the supposed wrong doing by Democrats from investigative media. What are you speaking about...Benghazi? Fast and Furious? NSA? One of the first sources of the first two came from Sharyl Attkisson, a reporter at CBS. And NSA was broken by Glen Greenwald, and pursued relentlessly even today by all media sources. And by the way, I might add that both CBS and Glen Greenwald are what you would consider to be "left-wing" media. Note that FOX uncovered nothing.

  • dantheserene||

    Providing cover on an issue for democrats is not the same thing as covering an issue.

  • Jackand Ace||

    So I will let you tell me...what cover has Glen Greenwald provided for Democrats?

  • PaulW||

    What was it, 17 times the media coverage for Christie than all of Obama scandals combined?

    JackandAce, you're either wrong and didn't think about it long enough, a complete dumbass, or a Team Blue shrill (which would still make you a dumbass).

  • Jackand Ace||

    Thanks for providing stats from Media Research Center and Brent Bozell. Which tells us all we need to know about the cover you engage in for Republicans.

  • PaulW||

    One only needs pay attention.

    Please feel free to find proof and refute that statement rather than attack the messenger like your kind are so apt to do.

  • Jackand Ace||

    I never expend energy refuting statements from organizations like Media Research Center, nor would I expect you to do the same if I quoted Media Matters. But then I would not do that...guess that's the difference between you and me.

  • PaulW||

    In other words you're a lazy Team Blue hack who uses such fallacies as attacking the messenger and moral high ground.

    Sad little troll you are.

  • R C Dean||

    And NSA was broken by Glen Greenwald

    A British reporter in a British paper. Doesn't support the proposition that the mainstream American media isn't a wing of the Democrat Party.

    and pursued relentlessly even today by all media sources.

    Snerk. Really? How many NYT front page headlines has it gotten (not the Snowden kerfuffle per se, but the actual NSA op)?

  • Jackand Ace||

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/.....ml?hpid=z3

    Just today. And in the Post, another lefty rag.

  • Jackand Ace||

    By the way, I might add that Glen Greenwald is an American, and worked for quite a few years for Salon before the Guardian.

    And by the way, this story was pursued before Greenwald broke it in a big way by investigative reporting from NY Times, and Washington Post, and the NSA was sued by the ACLU.

  • PaulW||

    According to Scott Whitlock of the Media Research Center, “In less than 24 hours, the three networks have devoted 17 times more coverage to a traffic scandal involving Chris Christie than they’ve allowed in the last six months to Barack Obama’s Internal Revenue Service controversy.”

  • PaulW||

    Sorry, just the IRS one.

  • Jackand Ace||

    You should be more sorry for providing stats from a Republican media center, and thinking you can pass it off as unbiased.

  • PaulW||

    Like I said above, feel free to refute it with evidence rather than attacking the messenger.

  • HenryC||

    I actually find it fairly easy to believe that Christie didn't think his people would be as stupid and petty as they were. Roads do need repair. I still wonder if needed repairs were accomplished, That has not been part of the story either way.

  • Tony||

    A wise citizenry would take this episode as a warning about the dangers of ceding control over our lives to the government.

    There's a libertarian lesson in everything, I guess. Yes, let's cede authority over one of the busiest roads in the world to natural selection. That'll be better.

  • creech||

    To be fair, any of us who were ever in management can cite examples of subordinates doing something incredibly stupid or even criminal that we had no knowledge of until later. The difference is, of course, on how one responds. Were the perps punished or rewarded
    (e.g. Heckuva job, Brownie)? It shouldn't be hard to see a difference between swift punishment and the typical actions of Our
    Glorious Leaders.

  • Jackand Ace||

    That's true. But the difference here is one of magnitude. It was not an act of theft in the office, or a stupid prank. It closed three lanes to the world's busiest bridge, one that is considered a threat from terrorism, and one that provided exit from the City during 9/11. And it impacted not just one state, but two.

    And you only need to look at the memo sent out and received by Christie staff members from the Director of the Port Authority (Foye), in which he said federal and state laws were broken and lives were put at risk.

    If you don't think that memo was walked into the Governor's office directly, then you would be naïve. It highlighted a clear threat to New Jersey, it came from the highest level of the Port Authority, and was written in September. Not two weeks ago.

  • creech||

    If it turns out Christie did see such a memo in Sept., then he deserves impeachment...and same folks should be calling for impeachment of OGL if it turns out he knew about fast and furious, IRS targeting, Benghazi not being about a movie, etc. etc.

  • PaulW||

    This, but this is not something you can convince a Team Blue player of.

    In their world, Republicanziz are evul and if a Democrat does it they were just doing it for our own benefit and therefore it is not evul.

  • Ayn Random Variation||

    NINE. ELEVEN.
    NINE. ELEVEN.

  • دردشة عراقنا1||

    hmmmmmmmm

  • BrielleYousifage||

    my neighbor's aunt makes 68 dollars/hour on the laptop. She has been out of a job for nine months but last month her pay check was 15377 dollars just working on the laptop for a few hours. read the full info here

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    http://www.tec30.com
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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