By now, all of you have heard about and read about the artificial traffic jams on the GWB that were orchestrated by members of Governor Chris Christie’s staff. The purpose of this blog is not to defend, justify, or minimize those actions. In my opinion, there is no excuse or defense for what was done. Those responsible should be punished, and, to all appearances, they have been. The purpose of this blog is to comment on the actions of Mr. Christie and the press in the aftermath.
First, let’s analyze Mr. Christie’s actions.
1. He immediately convened a series of staff meetings at which he forcefully and decisively ascertained the identity of those responsible.
2. He fired or severed business relationships with those responsible, including, among others, his Deputy Chief of Staff and Campaign Manager.
3. He called a press conference at which he:
a. Gave a full and complete apology,
b. accepted full responsibility, even though he had no knowledge of the matter (invoking Harry Truman’s famous line “The buck stops here.”), and
c. answered every question.
Did he do enough? Perhaps; perhaps not.
The press’ actions have been predictable. They have been all over this incident as they should be. I’m all for an independent and vigorous press, but where have they been the last five years with respect to the scandals perpetrated by the Administration – the Black Panthers’ intimidation tactics during elections, Fast and Furious, Benghazi, Obamacare rollout, politically-motivated IRS audits, and NSC spying scandals, to name the major ones? The contrast is stark and a clear example of the press’ liberal bias.
In addition, contrast Mr. Christie’s actions with those of President Obama. Mr. Christie demonstrated strong and decisive leadership. He did not try to hide or blame others. He stated that, as the boss, he was ultimately responsible for the actions of his subordinates. On the other hand, Mr. Obama chose to dodge and obfuscate. In every case Mr. Obama first claimed that he did not know anything about the particular scandal. It was perpetrated by subordinates who hid it from him. (It was almost like that famous cartoon: “I know nothing; I see nothing; I hear nothing.”) Then, he pledged to “investigate” and “get to the bottom of it.” Some of these scandals are two years old. The American public has not received an adequate explanation of any of them. Furthermore, no culprit has been identified, and no one has been fired (retired, transferred and/or pensioned off, yes, but not fired).
We all know that anybody can make a mistake. Most of us will forgive the person who made a mistake if they admit it, apologize, and take action to prevent a recurrence. Mr. Christie has owned up to this mistake and taken prompt corrective action. That, my friends, is leadership. Mr. Obama has not owned up to any of his Administration’s mistakes and not taken corrective action with respect to any of them. Could the contrast in leadership be any clearer?
CONCLUSION AND PREDICTION
Mr. Christie has many political enemies in both political parties. Everyone knows that he is an undeclared candidate for the Presidency in 2016, and at this point he and Hilary Clinton are the leading candidates for their respective parties. His political enemies will attempt to use this incident to discredit him. For his sake, there better not be any further revelations.
Whereas supporters laud his strong decisive leadership, many Dems view those same traits as evidence of a bully. Indeed, in the aftermath of this incident, some newspapers have labeled him as such. It is a catchy label, and if it sticks it will be problematic for him prospectively.
Some of his opponents in the GOP have not yet forgiven him for cozying up to President Obama during the 2012 Presidential Campaign in order to obtain relief from Super Storm Sandy. The Romney people are still particularly bitter about that. Some of them go so far as to blame Romney’s loss directly on that, although there were other factors as well. The conservative wing of the party views him as not conservative enough, just another northeast moderate in the Nelson Rockefeller/Jacob Javits/Mitt Romney model. The Tea Partiers resent his attacks on them. Still others favor other candidates, such as Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul or Marco Rubio. Under the best of circumstances Mr. Christie figured to have as much trouble securing the GOP’s nomination as he would winning the subsequent election. How he deals with this matter prospectively will be significant.
That said, it is important to realize that there are over two years to go before Election Day 2016. That is a lifetime in politics. History tells us that anything can happen. If Mr. Christie intends to run, he should view this as a precursor to the treatment he can expect from both his political opponents and the press.