Former New Jersey governor Thomas H. Kean, one of the state’s most revered figures and a mentor to current Republican Gov. Chris Christie, contends that the leadership qualities Christie has shown while in office should give pause to voters nationally, as they begin to size up Christie as a potential president.
“On the one hand, I think he’s got a lot to offer. I think he’s the most able politician since Bill Clinton,” Kean (R) said in an interview with The Washington Post. “On the other hand, you look at these other qualities and ask, do you really want that in your president?”…
There is no evidence that Christie knew of the actions of his subordinates and appointees, some of whom he has since fired. But Kean — who has known Christie since the current governor was a teenager — faulted Christie for establishing a culture in his tight inner circle in which no one “will ever say no to him, and that is dangerous.”
Christie’s admirers are actually framing the exhibition of remorse as a triumph that somehow erases the debacle that prompted the exhibition. Still seeing him as their preferred 2016 candidate, they are quick to compare him favorably with the Obama administration, in which responsibility is rarely acknowledged and heads never roll. But that’s a very low bar. If we were not talking about government, if such corruption had occurred at a private corporation, prosecutors would have expected the company to have launched a searching internal investigation at the first scent of wrongdoing. They would have demanded full disclosure to, and energetic cooperation with, the government…
Contrary to his carefully cultivated reputation as a hard-charging, no-nonsense prosecutor — the scourge of political corruption — the governor seems downright passive when it comes to his own circle. He takes no investigative initiative. He reacts as embarrassing developments occur and tweaks his story accordingly. He is caught flatfooted and unprepared when damning disclosures, like this week’s e-mails involving his close aides, inevitably emerge.
When he finally takes action, moreover, it turns out to be the only conceivable action any ambitious politician would take under the circumstances. His fans are applauding his decisiveness, but what ambitious politician who had any hope of running for president would not have fired Bridget Kelly once those e-mails hit the news? The Obama comparison doesn’t cut it: Obama is already president and, with the press carrying his water, he doesn’t have to fire anyone — not Sebelius, not Holder, not Rice, no one. Christie doesn’t have that luxury.
Some observers were quick to compare New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s “Bridgegate” scandal to the inappropriate targeting of conservative activist group by the Obama administration’s Internal Revenue Service. Both involve the abuse of power to punish political opponents, and stunned, angry, saddened executives who blamed their underlings. However, the media’s reactions to the two scandals have been quite different…
The Christie scandal landed on the cover of The New Yorker. The magazine’s cover story following the IRS revelations was about “urban cyclists.” Obviously, The New Yorker has a local purview that makes the Christie story more relevant than a Washington-based scandal, but that didn’t stop the magazine from running a Halloween-themed cover on the government shutdown depicting John Boehner and Ted Cruz as ghosts haunting the Capitol.
Some in the media have been rather incredulous about Christie’s denying involvement, or have set an exceptionally high bar for the governor to clear his name. Meet the Press host David Gregory wonders: “Isn’t the burden for [Christie] to prove he didn’t create an atmosphere where underlings thought this was okay?” Such questions certainly weren’t being asked (outside the conservative media) about President Obama in the wake of the IRS revelations, even though Obama’s claims to have had no knowledge of the targeting allegations under investigation seemed equally suspect, and he has publicly castigated spending from outside political groups and condemned a key Supreme Court decision that made it easier.
No, everyone’s talking about Christie’s surprise ordeal because everyone knows he’s running for president. (He’s just got to!) Plus, everyone in the media knows we know. And it’s not the kind of common knowledge that unites us in boredom. Christie is buzzworthy—because he’s still a novelty. There’s never been anyone to rush toward the White House quite like Chris Christie. There’s never been quite this kind of catalyst to accelerate the horse race.
The tempo of a presidential election is faster than ever. The timetable begins earlier than ever. The frenzy of signaling, supporting, and fundraising, the scrambling to lay the groundwork, the amplification of chatter, the propagandizing of “early favorites” and “early polls”—all of it, now, is on the brink of ludicrous speed…
It’s no coincidence that the highest-velocity politician in America has suddenly become a whipping boy for slowing down cars. There can be no train wreck without first inventing the train. Chris Christie is the first of us to learn all over again what we ain’t got time to remember: the wages of instantaneousness are instant karma.
You read the emails and texts his operatives were sending, and you realize: This is TV dialogue. It’s movie dialogue. They get everything off the screen, not real life, and they’re imitating the sound of tough guys.
Those emails and texts, they were “Sopranos” dialogue. “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” is pure Tony. “Got it” is pure Silvio. “I feel bad about the kids,” is druggy Christopher, or maybe Adriana. “They’re the children of Buono voters” is Paulie Walnuts, in all his aggression and stupidity.
Christie operatives are not the only ones in politics who talk this way. And they all do it not because they’re really tough but because they think that’s how people like them—rock-’em sock-’em operatives—would talk. They don’t have the brains, heart or judgment of people who’ve lived a life because they haven’t all lived a life. They’re 30 or 40 and came of age in a media-saturated country. They saw it all on TV. They saw it on a screen…
Advice for politicians: Know who they are, and help them mature. If you don’t, they’ll do goofy things, bad things, and they’ll not only hurt us. They’ll hurt you.