Well, it was a good eight weeks for the governor of New Jersey. Two months ago he was the Republican lion, staring into national TV cameras and commanding the rest of the world, especially Washington D.C., to take a good, hard look at “How things are done here in New Jersey,” so we could all learn something. Yes, he was riding high. A remarkable 65-percent pounding of a Democrat in the proverbial Blue State, looking like a prime candidate for president of the United States and a true challenge to the type of demographics that will likely fell the GOP on the national level for generations.
Next thing you know he’s in the docket of the state capital giving nearly a two-hour mea culpa speech replete with words like “sad” and “embarrassed” and “sorry,” trying to explain how he’s not a bully, something he has staked his reputation on. Around here, this type of strong-arming comportment is known as “tough.” However, for a man who routinely calls people he finds objectionable “idiots,” the details are always in the semantics and how people outside of this historically corrupt state would see our “business as usual” as something less appealing.
Of course, none of this is any good for Chris Christie if he has designs on being president of the United States, or even to continue governing NJ if this thing finds its way into Drumthwacket, the bizarrely appropriate name of the governor’s mansion in Trenton. I only know this because while schooling down there in the early ‘80s, our collegiate custom was to heave ice balls over the fence at Thomas Kean’s basset hound.
At least we thought it was a dog.
Be that as it may, even if Christie knew nothing of the “bullying” or “revenge” tactics his closest aides perpetuated on Fort Lee due allegedly to its mayor, a Democrat, not endorsing his Caesar-like campaign that was well in the bag by the September date this four-day traffic jam choked the gateway to one of the most highly traversed bridges on this continent, it reeks of chaos.
Chaos may be gangbusters for stoned college kids pelting a defenseless canine on federal property, but it’s bad for politicos with agendas. The perception for Christie to be unflappable, undaunted, even irascible had to be strengths going in, as most of the Right in this country and a large defection of Independents have decided that whatever is currently going on in the White House is flimsy, uninterested and indecisive. Backtracking on this kind of nonsense does nothing for this “image” of the recalcitrant do-gooder. It is bad branding, and if this had happened this early to a leftist, African-American nobody senator from Illinois in the first few months that people started to take notice of him, Hillary Clinton would have already been president.
Speaking of Joe Cool, maybe Christie’s cries of having heard about this scandal on the internet the day he headed for his lengthy “hand-in-the-cookie-jar” yammering qualifies him for the presidency. Barack Obama’s modus operandi lately has been Ronald Reagan’s fancy “no recollection of events” defense of a myriad of weird to criminal actions by members of his government, from whatever happened in Benghazi to the IRS screwing with conservative groups to the drunken power of the NSA well into the roll out of this Affordable Care Act boondoggle.
Maybe Christie has hit upon something here. The fact that he may have known about this act of political vengeance, so prevalent in the history of governorships across this fruited plain, is for the investigations and courts to decide, but at least we know this: If he were this unaware that his top aides were perpetrating a heinous level of malfeasance, then he’s the idiot. And then the next logical question would have to be, what’s worse: insidiousness or ignorance? Reagan and Obama embraced ignorance and it paid off handsomely for Reagan and so far Obama’s “What the…?” response to his brand of chaos that’s kept the big dogs at bay. Let’s face it, I’ve heard the arguments proposed by the independent investigative councils looking into most of these screw-ups, and they may be sillier than the president being out-to-lunch since the spring of 2011.
Let’s face it, overreaching the opposition to how a chief executive reacts to a potential scandal tends to engender blow-back sympathy for those who don’t see the president or this governor as a tyrant but merely an insufficient leader, like the last guy, whose presidency came in with tragedy and left with the implosion of the Western world’s economy.
But any way you’d like to slice it, political or perception, this ain’t good for the new kid in town; especially this early in the game, when the national mood is ornery to outright fierce. Until he officially announced his intentions to run for the nation’s highest office, nothing close to this mess could befall Christie. But here we are, a mere eight weeks into the nation peeking into the Garden State, and things have gone sideways.
If nothing else, it goes to show you how far it is between this bitter winter of 2014 and whatever emerges in the summer of 2015 as a viable challenge to the status quo, which may now not include one Chris Christie.
Hey, he’s the idiot who ordered us to take a good, hard look.
Do yourself no favors and like this idiot on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jc.author
James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of “Deep Tank Jersey,” “Fear No Art,” “Trailing Jesus,” “Midnight for Cinderella” and “Y.”