Friday, January 10, 2014

Understanding Chris Christie

Chris Christie. I like him. I like his combative, straight shooting news conferences and town meetings. I like his style and the fact that he’s trying to bring back obesity in our public servants. Call it Grover Cleveland Chic. Even though I don’t agree with 100% of his ideology, I think he would make a good President. Anyone who can manage to actually govern New Jersey in a reasonably conservative way deserves my attention. He has the guts to take on unions and the career feather-bedders in both parties. He doesn’t condescend to voters. He speaks to them as adults. As a Republican in a deeply Democratic state he governs like he’s playing with house money, like he can hardly believe he got elected in the first place so since he’s here he might as well kick some ass.

Having said all this, I don’t believe for a minute that he didn’t know what his staff was up to concerning the lane closure controversy. Despite his protestations, Christie IS a bully…to which I say, so what?

For most of our nation’s history, mayors and governors were known as “bosses”, or at least the most successful ones were. They got things done through a combination of persuasion, competence and yes…intimidation. In this sense, Christie is something of a throw back. He asked the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee for an endorsement of his reelection campaign, part of Christie’s overwhelmingly successful bipartisan strategy of co-opting his potential political enemies. The mayor refused. Then Christie did something small, petty and vindictive as a demonstration of his power to make trouble makers pay. His aides ordered the closure of several lanes of the interstate right around the Fort Lee exits causing days of chaos, anger and frustration among its citizens.

When the Governor claimed in yesterday’s press conference that he knew nothing about any of this and that he had no idea what his staff was up to, he was telling a technical truth. He is a CEO and as such, his aides and top staff understand the time tested reality of something called plausible deniability. Basically this is an operating system whereby the boss allows only the most reliable and trusted people into his inner circle, then charges them with doing his will. If something gets messy in the discharge of doing his will, the CEO is to be carefully kept out of the loop so when and if it blows up, he can stand in front of a room full of reporters and honestly say, “I had no idea.”

But if you think he wouldn’t have approved of this lane closure business, you don’t understand A. politics and B. Chris Christie.

So yes, he is a bully and yes, this was a petty, revengeful, score-settling tantrum. But people, this is politics. Even worse, this is New Jersey politics. Nobody was pulled out of the Hackensack River wearing cement shoes. There are no bullet holes ripped throughout the mayor’s office. As score-settling goes in New Jersey, this is grade school horseplay.

The best we can hope for in our politicians anymore is competence. If you find one who is also tough as nails, that’s a bonus. But, there aren’t any more Jimmy Stewarts out there. The last Sunday school teacher to get elected President was Jimmy Carter and, God bless, our Republic won’t survive another one like him.

My prediction is that once the dust settles from this story, Christie’s poll and favorability numbers will go…up. I don’t think I’m the only American left who would like to see an ass-kicker in the White House.