The governor of New Jersey is embroiled in a scandal involving the closure of several lanes on a busy bridge during his overwhelmingly successful reelection bid last fall. It seems that the mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey refused to endorse the governor’s bid, which inspired Christie’s deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly to conjure up some “traffic problems” in the form of the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge, causing four days of, at best, extreme inconvenience. At worst the closures may have put lives in danger.
What makes such retribution ridiculous is the fact that Christie won reelection by a huge margin. He certainly didn’t need the endorsement of the mayor of tiny Fort Lee, New Jersey.
Christie has fired Kelly and more heads may roll. Yesterday he held a press conference in which he offered a lengthy, seemingly sincere mea culpa. Those in the know about crisis management say he is doing all the right things, contrasting it favorably to the Obama Administration’s habitual stonewalling on controversies ranging from IRS targeting to the Obamacare rollout.
All well and good. I think Christie is a straight shooter. I like his brusque, sometimes confrontational style. I believe he is more honest than many of his peers in politics. For all the talk about him being a bully, the man is a Republican in an overwhelmingly blue state with an astronomical (before this scandal) approval rating. So somewhere, somewhere that counts, he is playing nice with others of different political stripes…a skill somewhat lacking in presidents present and in recent past.
But Christie’s press conference was a double edged sword. If the governor was forthright about nature of the scandal, he was only able to be so because he knew nothing about what his aides were plotting. His disappointment and heartbreak over being deceived by people he trusted was evident. And that’s the problem.
I fall into the category of people who firmly believe President Obama is not some sinister Marxist non-citizen bent on ruining America. My feeling is that Obama is and always has been woefully outmatched by the job and that we have seldom seen cluelessness and incompetence out of a president on such an epic scale. We’ve lived through five years of a president who has little idea what’s going on in his government. He’s not only clueless about what’s going on, he shows very little interest in finding out how government works. This incompetence is bad enough. But what makes it infuriating is when President Obama holds a presser and presents himself as a victim. When the IRS targets people or the NSA collects data on US citizens or people are dropped, despite his assurances, from their health insurance, no one is more outraged than Barack Obama. He will lead the charge to find out went wrong and how it went wrong. He speaks like these things happened in someone else’s administration. He trots out the poisonous, stale Washington culture as part of the problem..as if he’s been observing these events from Fargo, ND!!
While Christie made the correct “The buck stops here” utterances, much of his apology veered into claims of victimhood. At one point he stated that, with 65,000 people working for him, he couldn’t possibly know what each one of his employees was doing at any given moment. True that. But the bad actors here were part of his senior staff and their conduct shows a distinct lack of oversight, not to mention monumental stupidity.
Management chops aren’t the only things lacking here. Leadership is absent. Governor Christie may not have ordered the retaliation against Fort Lee’s mayor. But he allowed a culture to develop in which aides thought it’s okay to ruin four days of thousands of people’s lives out of spite.
So I look at this mess and think, if this guy can’t manage a staff of people running a state, how is he going to get his arms around the government of the greatest, most powerful nation on earth? There’s been some debate over the last few years about the presidency being too big for one man. Whatever the merits, or lack of, that the president is too big a job for one guy, surely being in charge of New Jersey is a manageable task.
I was leaning Governor Christie’s way in 2016. Not now though. By virtue of the fact that he can’t run his state, he’s proved he can’t run a country.