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.
The right engineered a wave election in 2010 that will reverberate for at least a decade, by running against the economy George W. Bush left the country and Medicare cuts they later wrote into their own budget.
As the deficit shrinks and long-term unemployment remains unconscionably high, House Republicans are cutting food stamps and putting up huge roadblocks to renewing emergency unemployment insurance. (Coincidentally, cutting off the only income of those who have been out of work for months will discourage them from looking for work, removing them from the job market and lowering the unemployment rate in an election year. Not a bad deal.)
If there is a better example of “getting away with it” than Chris Christie, it has to be Governor Scott Walker (R-WI).
Wisconsin’s governor took his win in the state where the progressive movement was born as an innovation to go after public workers’ right to collectively bargain, even after they agreed to cuts that helped pay for his corporate tax breaks.
Faced with a recall, Walker’s supporters outspent his opponents by an estimated 8 to 1. The ad that really spoke to Wisconsinites proclaimed “recall isn’t the Wisconsin way.” And it was — of course — paid for by an out-of-state group funded by the Koch brothers.
But Walker’s private machinations and possible entanglement with criminal associates is nothing compared to the cruelty he’s enacting and proposing in public.
There are 25 Republican-led states that are blocking Medicaid expansion but only one governor — Scott Walker — is using a law designed to expand care to actually kick 77,000 people off Medicaid.
And he isn’t done punishing the poor. The governor now wants to replace his state’s income tax with a sales tax that would likely result in raising taxes on the bottom 80 percent of residents.
The question should be: How do they get away with it?
(The answer: Brilliant marketing combined with massive financial backing.)
In the midst of the worst financial crisis in half a century, both Christie and Walker distracted the anxiety of a sinking middle class from the conservative economics that had created an under-regulated stock market fed by massive tax breaks for investors that destabilized an over-leveraged financial system. Instead, they pointed the finger of blame at public workers, the one group in America that retained the vestiges of what created the middle class — job security, benefits, and pensions.
When they were called out, Walker turned to his backers, who feed upon the kind of massive redistribution to the rich that’s inevitable when the middle class is weak. And Christie called his opponents names with the trademark bluster that silences his opponents. And it seems it’s a bluster he’s very willing to back up with consequences for you or your constituents — or at least his staff thinks so.
The right has decried the “politics of envy” as the left has pointed out that those who scream about the debt being unpatriotic are unwilling to ask millionaires who pay tax rates lower than nurses to chip in even a dime more. But the real politics of envy comes from conservatives who built their movement on the envy of fictional “welfare queens” and are now counting on the public being jealous of the uninsured, the hungry and the unemployed.
The intentional traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge left thousands stuck and emergency services paralyzed. Republican unwillingness to expand Medicaid for 4.8 million Americans could cost 27,000 their lives this year.
The GOP is perpetrating mass cruelty on the most vulnerable — even though it could likely result in higher costs later. And the real scandal is that they don’t feel the need to hide it at all.