Christie Decision Defies Common Sense

Friday, 17 Feb 2012 02:40 PM

By Chris Freind

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With the sparse media coverage of Whitney Houston’s death, it’s not surprising that her years of military service have gone largely unnoticed, as were her activities as an undercover cop (was she really killed after a sting went bad?).

Chris-Christie-US-Flag.jpg
Chris Christie's decision defies common sense.
(GettyImages)
After all, she must have done these dangerous things to warrant all New Jersey state flags being flown at half-mast in her honor, as ordered by Governor Chris Christie.

Because otherwise it defies common sense.

If Houston was not a police officer gunned down in the line of duty, nor a military hero killed in a war zone, that means that the hugely significant act of lowering the flags in deference to her was because she was . . . a singer?

Really, Governor? A singer? That’s what it’s come down to in Jersey? Sure, Whitney was proud of her Garden State roots. And undeniably, she was an extremely dynamic pop star, changing the musical landscape forever and inspiring some of the brightest performers of today.

But she was just a singer. That’s not to minimize her accomplishments, but let’s cut through the emotion and talk brass tacks. She was a popular singer, past her prime, with a not-exactly stellar personal history.

Play word association with most people about Whitney Houston, and they will tell you two things: great singer and crack addict.

That’s reason enough not to elevate Houston to god-like status. While Christie can’t control the media’s nauseating coverage of all things Whitney, he certainly could have sent a message by not lowering the flags for her. By doing so, Houston is now perceived as a special role model, one for whom the government has issued its seal of approval.

And despite Christie’s protests to the contrary, that’s exactly what has happened. Trite as it sounds that honoring Houston condones her behavior, both good and bad, it also happens to be true.

Where does it end? What is the litmus test for getting flags lowered on your behalf? Once the hallowed territory of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, Christie has now changed the rules forever. Is that really what we want from our governmental leaders — their interpretation of who merits the honor?

If Jersey boy Jon Bon Jovi happens to meet his maker, will the Guv give him the same special treatment? And what is the threshold? Record sales? Movie appearances? Rehab stints?

More ominous is to ponder Bon Jovi’s flag-fate had he died before Whitney. Would Christie have honored him the same way? And if not, why? Because Bon Jovi wouldn’t have provided the same perceived political benefit?

“What a callous, out-of-line question!” So will be the response of many Houston fans who will view that possibility as a personal affront to Whitney and her family, but the point remains, and that bring us to two possibilities:

1. Is Christie’s move a political calculation, pandering to constituencies that are not in his camp? If so, is the Governor’s attempt at making inroads with the black community and young hipsters done to seem more “moderate and compassionate,” both perceived necessities when running for president or vice president?

If that is the case, it is a massive miscalculation on three counts. First, he won’t win over those constituencies because he lowers flags. He can only do so by sticking to his core convictions, explaining why his vision will benefit them more than failed Democratic policies.

Second, he has now alienated part of his natural base: active and retired police and military personnel. In their eyes, his action has cheapened the sacrifices of their fallen brethren, putting those heroes on par with a drug-addicted millionaire Hollywood entertainer.

Last, many regular, non-political citizens may not see his motives as political, but a lack of good judgment.

2. There may be no political calculation whatsoever, with Christie making his decision on a human level only. This author, for one, would certainly like to think so, as no media commentator has defended Christie’s bulldog approach to tough issues more than Freindly Fire (and, to be fair, hammered him when he was wrong, such as “HelicopterGate”).

But that is exactly why politicians should not be lowering flags for those they happen to like. The nature of politicians is such that everything they do is perceived to be calculated, that their every move is an ulterior motive to curry favor with a particular constituency.

Why wasn’t the solemn act of lowering flags to honor real heroes left intact? Why is nothing sacred anymore? Why is common sense so incredibly uncommon these days, even by those from whom we expect more?

Perception is reality, and the growing perception, from both the media’s nonstop Whitney coverage and Chris Christie stamping his imprimatur on her entire life, is that she should be emulated and admired as one of the nation’s great role models.

To those entities, a suggestion. If you want to honor her legacy, buy her albums. Otherwise, it’s time to exhale, come down from your drug-induced state, and realize that Whitney Houston is no . . . Michael Jackson.

An accredited member of the media, Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, Friendly Fire Zone.

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