Christie’s Traffic and Hillary’s War Decision-Making Are Reminders That a Politician’s Job Is To Get Elected, No Matter the Human Cost

Sorry! |||Before New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gobbled up most of the country's political oxygen this week with his administration's seemingly retributive traffic policies, the political-scandal market was being serviced by various insults emanating from former Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ new book, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War. Though the two stories on the surface would seem to have nothing in common, dig a fingernail into both and you'll quickly hit the same conclusion: Politicians and the organizations around them are largely in the business of getting elected, for which they will use whatever tool, or stake whatever position they can get away with. Even at the potential cost of human lives.

How many guys like this are in American politics? |||The Christie-administration scandal is clear on this front. At the very least, people in the governor's circle of trust—including his longtime campaign manager, the well-connected GOP politico and Jersey power broker Bill Stepien—were privately gleeful at the pain inflicted on residents and even children by traffic closures they engineered and then stonewalled the press and Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich about. This is one of the more nauseating displays:

In one exchange of text messages on the second day of the lane closures, [David] Wildstein, [one of two Christie appointees at the Port Authority,] alludes to messages Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich had left complaining that school buses were having trouble getting through the traffic.

"Is it wrong that I'm smiling," the recipient of the text message responded to Wildstein. The person's identity is not clear because the documents are partially redacted for unknown reasons.

"No," Wildstein wrote in response.

"I feel badly about the kids," the person replied to Wildstein. "I guess."

"They are the children of Buono voters," Wildstein wrote, making a reference to Barbara Buono, the Democratic candidate for governor, who lost to Christie in a landslide in November.

Stay classy, New Jersey! ||| New York Daily NewsNew York Daily NewsWhile Christie loyalists were joshing about the traffic problems of Fort Lee residents, an unconscious 91-year-old woman lay waiting in Fort Lee for an ambulance that was delayed in the jam. The woman later died.

It's a grotesque Jersey version of the ugly truth that underlies all electoral politics: The primary goal is to win re-election. There's a reason that the same people who work on political campaigns then work for important jobs in government—it's largely the same job, with the same boss, and the same goal. Take a look at Bill Stepien's resume:

In between Christie campaigns, Stepien worked in Trenton as the governor's deputy chief of staff for legislative and intergovernmental affairs, and was the architect of the governor's trademark town hall meetings. He previously worked for U.S. John McCain's presidential campaign and was national field director for former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Think of these kinds of careers, and of the callous disregard these people can have for voters and insufficiently loyal politicians (Stepien's reaction to Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich's public complaints about the traffic jam was "The mayor is an idiot"), the next time you hear someone describe politics as public service. When you give politicians power—such as the authority to appoint leaders to bi-state public bodies that control basically all the infrastructure in and around New York City and New Jersey—you are handing over tools that they and the many plausible deniers that work for them can and will use to get the boss man re-elected. It is disgusting, and it is predictable. If you want less corruption, give politicians less power.

Believe it or not, they sometimes make political considerations. |||That goes for the woman who Christie started this week thinking he may run against for president in 2016. Though it hasn't gotten nearly the same press, Robert Gates has this to say about Hillary Clinton and her former Democratic-primary rival, Barack Obama: 

Hillary told the president that her opposition to the [2007] surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary.... The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying.

Regardless of what one thinks of the Iraq surge (I was against it, FWIW), the idea of a future secretary of state and future president making life-and-death policy decisions based on their own crass political considerations is fundamentally grotesque. And it shouldn't surprise anybody. Their job is to get elected; ours is to stop getting bamboozled. If you don't want your fellow citizens to be used as human pawns in the debased game of power politics, then work to limit the amount of latitude politicians can have over our lives.

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  • Paul.||

    Jesus people in politics are the worst human beings.

  • Ken Shultz||

    They should make our choices for us because we're stupid hillbillies.

  • Raven Nation||

    I'm intrigued by the cause-and-effect question i.e. the worst human beings go into politics or politics turns people into the worst kind of human beings?

  • Batgirl||

    Sadly it's the latter. Politics inevitably corrupts.

  • Raven Nation||

    Yeah, that would have been my guess.

    But, given how evil & corrupt politics obviously is today, I suspect some bad people choose it because of the "opportunities" it offers.

  • Generic Stranger||

    I'm guessing it's both. Some really are sociopaths who simply want to gain power, some are average (or even good) people who get twisted by the game.

  • Nooge.||

    I'm intrigued by the cause-and-effect question i.e. the worst human beings go into politics or politics turns people into the worst kind of human beings?

    I think it's a little of both. People who make a hard effort to break into big-time politics, and acquire that kind of power, have to be a little debased. Maybe not all of them. But most of them. The process of even getting enough attention to have a chance to go that far has got to involve fucking over a lot of people.

    Then they actually get the power and, of course, their only concern is keeping it.

  • flye||

    I'm constantly reminded of the Mark Steyn quote that our system guarantees rule by creeps and misfits.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "The person's identity is not clear because the documents are partially redacted for unknown obvious reasons."

    Fixed it!

  • Sevo||

    ..."To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying."...
    The admissions may be surprising; the facts shouldn't be.

  • ||

    "The word 'politics' comes from the Greek root 'poly,' meaning many, and 'ticks,' meaning blood-sucking parasites." -- Andre Marrou

  • Ken Shultz||

    Can you imagine if fatso got to be president?

    You remember just a few months ago when people on the left said we were crazy for suggesting that the park service, et. al., were being vindictive and shutting down parks and closing off memorials unnecessarily?

    This is apparently SOP in certain quarters.

  • Paul.||

    And no scandal there, btw.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

  • playa manhattan||

    Those researchers should be getting more funding than all climate scientists combined.

  • Sevo||

    Don't see it happening. Imagine politico funding studies to prove they're lying pieces of shit.
    They'll cut spending before that happens.

  • steedamike||

    Thanks for this link. I'm always happy to find some credible evidence to explain how humans think. Here's a wiki page defining a term that referenced in your post that I found enlightening: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locus_of_control

  • AdamJ||

    Totally different, because Christie is a Republican, so he's bad. National parks are about nature and stuff so all people there are good.

  • ||

    Hillary told the president that her opposition to the [2007] surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary

    And this is why Hilary 2016 is going nowhere: it's so incredibly easy, at this point, to paint her as a self-serving, careerist pig who puts what little convictions she has secondary to whatever gains her more power.

  • Raven Nation||

    Depends what happens in the primaries. If she gets the nomination, the media will back her the same way they backed the self-serving, careerist pig from Chicago.

    However, I kind of get the feeling the media are done with the Clintons. If they want the first female president, they're probably going to get behind Elizabeth Warren.

  • ||

    Yeah I should add I don't see her surviving the primaries. She's going to get hit hard from both the left wing of the Democratic Party by the Warren-ites and the right-ish wing by Schweitzer.

    Wouldn't it be deliciously ironic if, despite media hopes for a GOP civil war the Democratic primary turns far more ugly?

  • Kevin47||

    This. Dems seldom embrace a candidate with this level of inevitability.

  • ||

    ...the other self-serving, careerist pig from Chicago.

    FTFY

  • Paul.||

    Wasn't it pretty easy to paint her as thus after her stint as first lady?

  • GILMORE||

    "it's so incredibly easy, at this point, to paint her as a self-serving, careerist pig who puts what little convictions she has secondary to whatever gains her more power."

    That would be like painting an orange orange.

    A waste of paint.

    I pointed out in 2008 that even a plurality of democrats know exactly what kind of person Hilary is, which is why Obama would end up taking the primary.

    The advantage she has in 2016 is that people won't really be voting for *her*, per se, so much as against any republican, and for womanhood writ large.

    I think in the minds of the Obamabots, the Hilary election is something of a natural progression in their moral purification-process. They've rid themselves of that pesky white guilt = now they have simply to vote for this odious woman to exorcise society's legacy of chauvinism.

    And you thought it was just politicians who are the self-serving ones. For progs, its sort of a symbiotic relationship. I think for people like the rest of us, they are simply a distasteful necessity.

  • ||

    I think you overestimate the Obamabots commitment to a Hilary candidacy. They are loyal first and foremost to Obama. They've never trusted the Clintons, especially when Birtherism and accusations that Obama is a secret Muslim originated from the Clinton primary campaign.

    If a viable and more left-wing candidate emerges like Liz Warren or a more palpable acolyte a lot of them will stampede over to that camp.

  • SusanM||

    I think you overestimate the idiots who are Obamabots. All The Big O needs to do is say "vote how I tell you" and they're in. The press will follow too, as it's a new chapter in the progressive narrative. The hardest part will be convincing the liberals for whom The Obamanator isn't liberal enough to trust someone else. Remember that they've been burned really bad this time.

    FWIW, it would almost be worth watching the country swirl down the pipes just to watch Christie and Hillary debate.

  • John C. Randolph||

    But democrats LOVE self-serving, careerist pigs.

    -jcr

  • Brandon||

    You know who may be even worse than people in politics? Political hack writers.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.....71280.html

  • Paul.||

    Can you give a summary so I don't have to give the huffpo page hits?

  • GILMORE||

    "Chris Christie Is the True Face of the Republican Party"

    Never mind that Christie is the prototype of a tri-state area scumbag urban machine politician, a derivation of the Populist Dem DNA that most self-identified 'republicans' naturally recoil in disgust from...

    ...but, hey, there's never any reason not to ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK like the good little Maoist soldiers they are.

  • Jerome||

    Bingo. Conservatives despise Governor Crisco. He may be a John Boehner type Republican, but he's no conservative. So as you listen to reports about the number of independent voters rising, remember that conservatives are embarrassed to be associated with John McCain, Miss Lindsey, Mark Kirk and the Demublicans.

  • Mint Berry Crunch||

    Do you remember Tim Robbins in Team America: World Police?

    There was quite a bit of "corporate, corporatist, corporations" talk. The author did, however, manage to wait until around the middle of his piece to drop his first and only mention of the Koch brothers.

  • XM||

    But I though Christie was a lovable bipartisan moderate. He saved NJ by embracing Obama and receiving aid that he would have received anyways. And he received all those minority votes.

    Didn't he also expand medicaid in his state?

  • Paul.||

    As I said in a previous thread, that's what makes this so delicious. The media is confused and thinks he's a republican. I can't stop chuckling. Now if we could just convince the media that Bloomberg is a Republican, but aside from Shrike, not even the media buys that 11th hour party switch.

  • RishJoMo||

    lol, the only thing that corrupt pompous windbag Christie cares about is where the net platter of Cheeseburgers is coming from!

    www.Privacy-Planet.com

  • Mint Berry Crunch||

    Sweet! Anon-bot has a more effective Christie takedown than HuffPo!

  • ||

    TERM LIMITS

    No political class and this shit would not happen nearly as often.

  • Sevo||

    The gripes I hear about term limits are two:
    1) What, you don't trust the voters?
    A) Well, to some degree, but that's the same reason the constitution is there.

    2) They won't know the ins and outs of the government and the staff will do the work.
    A) Good, and that's what happens now. The supposed elected official is just the 'fund-raising' dept of that office; the work is done by the 'operations' dept.

  • Paul.||

    1) What, you don't trust the voters?

    I've met them. I'm not impressed.

    2) They won't know the ins and outs of the government and the staff will do the work.

    Let's reword that question and answer, for yuks:

    q: But won't term limits put fresh eyes on our political problems.

    a: The problem with that is, you'll have fresh eyes on our political problems!

    That second retort is so dumb, it's not even worth addressing. The lack of experience is the fucking point.

  • Carolynp||

    Stop trying to save us from ourselves. We don't need term limits, we need minimal governance. On the whole, taking the totalitarian out of government gets rid of the need for term limits.

  • Killaz||

    Anarch-capitalism. Take the streets out of the politician's hands.

  • Ornithorhynchus||

    Mexico has a one-term limit for pretty much every elected office. And this sort of thing happens all the time there.

  • prolefeed||

    If you want less corruption, give politicians less power.

    Corollary: if you want no corruption, give politicians zero power over our lives.

    Maybe you'll get to anarchism yet, Matt.

  • Jerome||

    Great column by Welch. But as much as I agreed with all of the main points, I am reading the comments by you kooky little Libertarians about how evil and corrupt politicians are ... and you exhibit the very same sickness that Christie and his vermin suffer from.

    Welch would disarm politicians to prevent such corrupt, but Libertarians never, ever work with conservatives in the efforts to do just that. The glee Christie's henchmen took in school buses stranded in their manufactured traffic ... this is the same glee we see from Libertarians when a corrupt liberal like Christie is elected over a conservative, and "libertarian" votes could have swung the election (to a small government conservative).

    Oh...but then you wouldn't have government-funded abortions and legalized cocaine. Poor babies.

  • hermoda||

    You aren't making much sense. Libertarians are always the ones that want to shrink government - The problem is that conservatives are so invested in their culture war and get drunk on power when elected that you make poor allies.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    a small government conservative

    I have yet to spot one of these in the wild. I assumed they had been extirpated.

  • GILMORE||

    His labored argument appears to be that 'libertarians' are somehow complicit in this abuse of power because we fail to team up with the Righteous KulturWar Conservatives, who - as any RIGHT-THINKING RED-BLOODED AMERICAN KNOWS - have a completely consistent and blemish-free record of pioneering smaller-government ... well, at least during the occasional campaign speech. When actually elected, they give us Big Winners like the Patriot Act, Medicare Part D, and the invasion of Iraq.

    The fact that this hackneyed Big Government Conservative Ideal seems to be fading in popularity is apparently somehow 'our fault' because we think things like the failed Drug War and the Patriot Act are shit. Funny how 'not being statist douchebags' isn't really considered as a potential option for his brand of "good Conservatives".

    I suppose his point is that we never just 'take our medicine and back a REAL CONSERVATIVE like Rick Santorum', and consequently we get stuck with squishy RINOs like Christie.

    Because Santorum? He'd never be *that* kind of scumbag.

  • toolkien||

    Miss the part where libertarian-republicans were purged from the party circa 2003? I was a College Republican back in the late 80's, and there was a strong contingent of us who went by the moniker libertarian-republican. If Gloria Steinhem and Bob Guccionne could exist in the other party, we were able to live with Bible nuts & War Lords, as long as there was some nod to fiscal conservatism.

    But it was WE who got kicked out of the party, when the Republicans were fat and happy with their "Contract With America" or whatever, ramming Medicare Part D through adding $11,000,000,000,000 to the accrual basis national debt/unfunded liabilities, and starting several wars at once.

    The likes of Jonah Goldberg at National Review wrote several articles deriding libertarians, just to name one source. There was a concerted effort to kill off the libertarian leaning right from the party on many fronts. And later on, Statist Republicans doing their best to keep Ron Paul from participating in the debates, silencing anyone in the ranks with the temerity to call for an end to endless unemployment benefits a few years back.

    So, forgive us if we don't come swarming back "home" now that the Republicans flounder around in their own stupidity and are now the minority, for the most part. When the Republicans stop being the party of social conservatism/fiscal liberalism, and therefore diametrically opposed to libertarianism, then maybe we can talk. It's the Republicans who need to change, not us.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    God knows I'm hesitant to defend Obama-suckup Chris Christie, but seriously.

    While Christie loyalists were joshing about the traffic problems of Fort Lee residents, an unconscious 91-year-old woman lay waiting in Fort Lee for an ambulance that was delayed in the jam. The woman later died.

    The ambulance got there in 7 minutes. It's highly likely she would have died anyway. Is every lane closure tantamount to murder?

    And how many ambulances have been delayed by giant swaths of a city's roads being closed for King Obama's motorcade to bring His Hopiness to a political fundraiser?

  • General Butt Naked||

    God knows I'm hesitant to defend Obama-suckup Chris Christie, but seriously.

    Dude, once he gets the nomination you'll spend all your waking hours arguing that he's the great libertarian hope. And anyone who disagrees will be a statist douchebag obama fan.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    He's not getting the nomination, and in addition fuck you. I was quite realistic about Romney's warts.

    I don't think you or the other "principled non-voters" or "principled protest voters" want to get into a discussion of how much better/less worse off we'd be with Romney in the White House.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Imagine if all those cars had been parked perpendicular to traffic.

  • Tony||

    That Chris Christie killed an old woman is not, strangely enough, the scandal here. It's the general tormenting of innocent citizens for the pettiest and emptiest of political reasons.

    Of course Obama, being the first president ever to have a motorcade, must be brought into the conversation, just as Hillary must, because, well fuck if I know but maybe someone can explain it to me. Reason stylebook? Of course when Democrats do something wrong there doesn't seem to be the requirement that a random Republican is plucked out of the air to compare and contrast.

  • Jackand Ace||

    Well said, Matt, and exactly on point.

    No one would ever have had to told me that closing three lanes at the world's busiest bridge may have serious (maybe even life threatening) results. In addition, anyone who has driven over that bridge knows that authorities consider it the potential target of terrorists. I would not have needed training to know when a prank stops being a prank. But for some of these people, there are no gates to their ego. And your comparison to Hillary's ego is right on point.

    Thanks for a good article.

  • Will4Freedom||

    I hope they put a fork in this guy.... he's done (thankfully).

    Hey, Christy. If you're going to try and be like the Chicago thugs, you need to have a "D" behind you're name.

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