Note to Christie: Sleights of Hand Work Only If They Go Unnoticed.
Chris Christie’s political success in New Jersey was based on the perception that his personal style — which involved lots of yelling at people — was a sign of his governing effectiveness. This perception may have flourished most easily in a state whose informal motto is “You got a problem with that?”
But what some of us suspected all along was that Christie didn’t yell at people because he was a get-results kind of guy; he yelled at people because he had anger management issues. And his office’s bizarre screed against David Wildstein, his former ally now turned enemy, confirms that diagnosis.
— Paul Krugman, Be Nice to Your Social Studies Teacher, NYTimes.com, today
Since the bridge scandal broke early last month, and it’s been reported that some now-high-profile Christie appointees have resigned or been fired, I’ve wondered from time to time what has happened to one obscure Christie appointee: the guy who Christie assigned to shadow him with a videocamera in public settings and capture his tirades at ordinary constituents. The purpose was to post the videotapes on YouTube: publicly humiliating unwitting foils as the road to reelection and higher office.
Sadistic-narcissistic-clown for president!
George Will and I don’t agree on much, but last fall, after Christie made some highly-publicized vile comment to, if I remember right, a fan of a baseball team that was competing with Christie’s favorite team (or some such), Will wrote a column in which he made what struck me as a spot-on point. His larger point was that he dearly hoped that the 2016 presidential contest does not end up being one between Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie, but he made clear that his objection to Christie was that a pathologically rude person–someone whose stock-in-political-trade is gratuitous insults–should not be president, irrespective of any other considerations.
I remember thinking at the time, “Well, good for George Will.”
After I read the full story on Friday about Wildstein’s lawyer’s letter, I thought any judgment about its meaning and effect was, rather obviously, premature. The letter provided no specifics at all. But after Christie’s office responded on Friday, saying that the attorney’s letter proved that Christie played no role in the decision to cause “traffic problems in Fort Lee,” I wondered whether Christie was now claiming it was Wildstein who texted deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly that it was “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” rather than, y’know, the other way around. Wildstein’s apparent lack of documented evidence that Christie knew of the plan to cause traffic problems in Fort Lee before it was executed hardly means that no such evidence exists; it means only that Wildstein has no documented evidence of it.
So an important question was, is Christie really going to claim now that the others who it already is known were involved in the scheme–Bill Baroni, Wildstein’s superior at the Port Authority; Bill Stepian, Christie’s top political advisor; Bridget Anne Kelly, his deputy chief of staff–were mere puppets of Wildstein?
And now we have the answer, which is, yes. Otherwise, what in heaven’s name was the point of that really weird memo disseminated yesterday? Maybe that, as Krugman says, “This guy is scum. Everyone has always known that he was scum, since he was a teenager. And that’s why I appointed him to a major policy position”? Wildstein either has or knows of obtainable, documented evidence of whatever, or he doesn’t.
And Wildstein was not the one who sent the text saying, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” He was the one who received the text. Sleights of hand work only if they go unnoticed.
But Krugman’s larger point is this:
What’s remarkable here, actually, is how many pundits were taken in by the Christie persona. How could they not at least have wondered whether this guy’s bullying style reflected deeper flaws?
Yes. But his bullying style, in itself, should have offended pundits en masse, as deeply abusive of his official position, which was the source of his ability to so publicly misuse ordinary individuals.
To reiterate: Good for George Will.
Makes me wonder if flunkies and minions ever think to keep detailed evidence of this sort of stuff, to prevent their being thrown under busses again and again? Or is bus damage assumed to be part of the deal? Someone should do a study as to the motivations of serial flunkies — typically, we know the pay scale can’t be it. Odd profession…
So, Christie may go down. In the scheme of things it is Bernie Madoff going down while Dimon’s board give him a raise.
If the soul of this nation were not upside down, the board would have been embarrassed and felt indignation that their top person brought shame and the disgrace of criminality to the company. At least that is what we teach our children.
Instead we get the lesson for the adults that law is simply the rules of a game and the game is to beat the rules such that one wins the biggest pot.
I never did buy the line: It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game. Yeah, right. Maybe in my youth, but I was conversing with adults as an adolescent.
Here’s an interesting story about Wildstein by a journalist, now with Politico, who got his start in political journalism from Wildstein when Wildstein ran a NJ political-news site: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/01/david-wildstein-chris-christie-scandal-101992.html
It sounds like Wildstein was a political junky who, when he began working as a Christie flunkie, really needed a job.
But, Noni, you’re so right that anyone in a flunkie position in the administration of some pol as ambitious and narcissistic and autocratic as Christie–or, for that matter, anyone who has an over-the-top ambitious, narcissistic and autocratic boss, whether in government or the private sector–and who doesn’t keep detailed evidence of what transpires, is naive. There are so many buses around to be thrown under that you’d almost think this country had decent public transit systems.
And, Daniel, law is simply a game in which the only rule is that the rules are rewritten as needed to achieve the predetermined outcome. Really.
Looks like George Will and the rest of US won’t be seeing a race between Hillary and Christie. I see Ms. Kelly has seemed to have disappeared from the media glare. I’d love to hear her side of the story. She could probably tell much better stories more worthy of immunity than Mr. Wildstein’s tales.
I’ve tried to avoid this Christie thing, but it is just getting too humorous to ignore.
My favorite was last night, as I watched Christie say in the space of about 30 seconds that he was anxious to find out the truth, yet somehow fired Kelly without asking her what happened. Followed closely by his professed ignorance of whether there was a traffic study or not.
Amazing, a Governor cannot find out if there was a traffic study in his state after a month(at least) of wanting to know. I mean, how many phone calls can that possibly take?
You cannot make this stuff up.