Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) doesn’t want you to think he’s the kind of guy who would use his power to secretly exact petty revenge against a local official by punishing the people of his own state. No, he’d rather you believe he’s just the kind of guy whose staff thought he was that kind of guy.
Where would the governor’s staff get the idea that their boss would sanction shutting down two lanes of the world’s busiest bridge and telling commuters that it was the fault of Fort Lee’s mayor?
Could it be the way Christie has constantly berated his critics in public? Or the way he axed the fellowship program of an academic who didn’t bend to Republicans’ will on redistricting? Or how he became the first governor of his state ever to not reappoint a member of the Supreme Court, for no particular reason?
Or maybe it was how Christie fired his former New Jersey Commissioner of Education, claiming that Bret Schundler had lied to him over errors that cost the state hundreds of millions in education funds? The governor claimed back in 2010 that the lesson of the incident was, “Don’t lie to the governor.” However, Schundler claimed that it was the governor who was actually lying.
Now Christie wants us to believe his staff didn’t learn that lesson. Instead, they learned to do some freelance bullying in his name that he did not sanction and was never made aware of. Then they lied to him about it. So he fired the liars, and now he moves on.
The governor staked his political career on this explanation — that he was incompetently oblivious rather than complicit in violating federal law — and he expects to get away with it, the way he got away with firing Schundler.
And why wouldn’t he?
Christie got away with defunding Planned Parenthood over and over again because of the “costs.” Then he spent tens of millions on an unnecessary election just so he wouldn’t have to be on the same ballot as Cory Booker. His trickle-down economics of tax breaks for corporations while cutting government services and going after public workers’ security has led to a curiously weak economy and a growing deficit. Still, he was popular enough to win a landslide election.
Politically, the governor has the savvy to paint himself as a moderate when convenient, a label he contrasts with his image as a “bully” — one he seems to savor and nurture, even though he repeatedly said, “I am not a bully” in his press conference about the bridge scandal. He’s obviously canny enough to know that the public never heard the “not” in Richard Nixon’s “I am not a crook” and John McCain’s “I am not George W. Bush.”
In this way, Christie — who is often depicted as a contrast to the rest of the Republican Party — is the perfect example of a modern Republican.
The GOP is building its post-Bush/Cheney “resurgence” on getting away with things that are non-sensical and often downright cruel.
Copyright 2014 The National Memo