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.