No argument that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s staff — when they closed traffic lanes on the world’s busiest bridge — did something just plain dumb. Some Republicans have complained, possibly correctly, that this scandal has garnered an undue amount of attention because Christie is a prominent Republican in a generally rabidly blue state and a potential contender for his party’s presidential nomination in 2016.
With the state of chaos in the Middle East, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s hijinks, Ukrainian demonstrations and murder in Africa, one could say that a political scandal over a few lanes of traffic is hardly news. The aforementioned events and many others have more magnitude than a sloppy group of political operatives mismanaging a quick retributive act against a political enemy.
Yet, many are obsessed. Officials in the New Jersey Legislature are launching probes and it appears so is the U.S. attorney. Newspapers are busy with daily coverage of the invented traffic jam and a possible cover-up.
Could be countless people want to heap political pain on Gov. Christie. Maybe it is payback for his meanness and bullying. Maybe it’s the sick glee derived from making your political enemy squirm while your figurative foot is on his back. Or maybe it is just about the crosswalk and intersection where dumbness meets bravado and innocents are damaged.
It is probably a combination of all those factors. But the outcome may not be so different than what has happened to recent New Jersey governors, who as a group, have showed a clear lack of longevity. New Jersey chief executives tend not to last, tend not to be re-elected, tend to be tarred and feathered as they exit the State House in Trenton.
Moreover, the removal tends to occur quickly. As opposition forces gain momentum, some New Jersey governors instinctually know it’s time to look for other employment. It’s just the Garden State.
Could it be any different for the great corruption fighter, defender of the common man, battler against public sector unions, and all around "say what he wants when he wants and do what he wants" Chris Christie? Possibly not.
The usual approach to scandal or near scandal is to apologize and wait until the public anger disappears. Christie as of this week still holds a respectable 59 percent approval rating on performance but an equal number of his fellow News Jerseyans disapprove of his handling of the entire George Washington Bridge mess. And like all things in life, when you stand up and take blame, the public throws tomatoes.
Last week, Christie stood up to share his side of the sad tale. And the tomatoes haven’t stopped flying.
He could survive unless backed up lanes turn into something else. If you want to know what’s going on, always follow the money.
Was there a developer involved? Was there someone who didn’t get hired by somebody? Were there lawyers seeking fees from a developer who had near the famous exit from which cars were diverted causing the traffic jam?
Causing additional misery to those people already paying excessive tolls and hating the daily commute is deplorable, but it’s not clear if it’s a crime. They’ll follow the money, and in New Jersey, they will do it very soon. And then we’ll know whether handcuffs are on the horizon.
All we know now is that the grand plan in which Chris Christie sails through to New Hampshire has crashed. Sometimes in politics your worst enemies are the people closest to you. The only people who’ll make out well now will be the criminal defense attorneys.
Never enjoy the fall of a public person. There is always a sadness to the end of dreams. It is also disheartening to mourn the death of a career you knew well, even if it was only through newspapers and television reports.
While what is happening to Chris Christie is nothing new, the extraordinary level of vitriol and partisan fervor is frightening. Even if he’s a bully who doesn’t deserve it, Christie is paying a deeply. That’s a sad fate for anyone, regardless on which side of the aisle they sit.
Hank Sheinkopf is an early creator of integrated strategic campaigns using all forms of media and has won national and international awards for his radio and TV productions. He is a veteran of more than 700 political, public policy, and public relations campaigns around the world. Read more reports from Hank Sheinkopf — Click Here Now.
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