The purpose of this post is not to defend Chris Christie. Whether he was involved in the GWB closing or not will come out in due course, and he will pay a price either way — either for orchestrating the vindictive partial closing of the bridge, or for setting a tone that led to the same.
Substantively, James Taranto has nailed why the closing is such a massive problem for Christie.
Christie’s reputation as a straight talker has made for a flattering contrast with the smooth-talking Barack Obama. Obama’s deceptions, most notably his fraudulent claims about ObamaCare, have seriously damaged public trust in Washington. Christie’s supposed candor made him look as if he might be the man to restore it.
Worse, the Christie administration’s evident abuse of the Port Authority is reminiscent of the Obama administration’s abuse of the Internal Revenue Service. Neither the governor nor the president has been shown to be directly involved, but each must bear a measure of responsibility for his subordinates’ actions. One of Obama’s worst traits is his unvarnished contempt for his political opponents. The new revelations from Trenton suggest that Christie’s administration, if not the man himself, has a similar quality.
Its sheer pettiness is what distinguishes the GWB scandal from the ObamaCare and IRS ones. The ObamaCare fraud was in the service of an ambitious ideological agenda, and as we have argued, the 2012 election was close enough that it is possible the IRS’s suppression of opposition was necessary to secure the president a second term. Christie, by contrast, is not much of an ideologue and was cruising to an easy re-election.
In the latter regard, the bridge shenanigans look more like the Watergate burglary–a gratuitous misuse of power.
Indeed. And the IRS scandal remains largely unexplored by the mainstream media. The left’s pundits dismiss it as not a scandal at all, a position they obviously would not take if the IRS had systematically targeted their allies instead of the Tea Party.
Supposing that Christie ordered the partial closing as an act of retribution, it must rank among the most over-the-top abuses of power for the sake of one’s personal political fortunes in a long time. It could cost him his job. But he is not alone in abusing or trying to abuse his power to score political points. One of the lessons to come from all this may be that as long as a politician is open about his vindictiveness and doesn’t pretend to be anything but a hardened partisan, he can expect to survive nearly any scandal. It also doesn’t hurt to pick one’s targets along lines the media will approve of, and to be a Democrat. In some cases, the abuse will never become a true scandal at all, even though it should.
Before Christie did or didn’t order the partial closure of a bridge, two Democrat mayors tried to block a restaurant chain from entering their cities. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and now former Boston Mayor Tom Menino tried to block the Chick-fil-A fast food franchise from entering their cities in the summer of 2012. The two Democrats cited the company’s owner’s opposition to same-sex marriage — a stance that was identical to that publicly held by President Barack Obama until just a couple of months prior. Opposition to same-sex marriage is still at least a plurality view, and has won major referenda in California and North Carolina in recent years.
But Mayors Emanuel and Menino, both Democrats, used Dan Cathy’s position on marriage to block his privately owned company, Chick-fil-A, from doing business in the cities they lead. Both eventually had to back down, but their open and vindictive abuses of power never tainted them. It never became a debilitating scandal for either. On the contrary, on Menino’s way out of office, one of President Obama’s top advisers tweeted him a happy thought.
End of an era in Boston. Though flashy he was not, Tom Menino was one of America’s great mayors. http://t.co/u2kIqaa2dH
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) January 6, 2014
After the dust from the Battle For Chick-fil-A had settled, Emanuel even re-iterated his bigotry against those who believe in traditional marriage, to justify his attempt to abuse his power to block the company out of Chicago.
The summer prior to the Chick-fil-A episode, the state of Texas was suffering from widespread wildfires that threatened lives and property across the state. Gov. Rick Perry requested federal aid, as disaster relief falls under one of the legitimate uses of the federal government. At first, President Obama’s FEMA denied Perry’s call for help. Only massive political pressure forced a change in the decision, and the Obama administration did eventually lend aid. It has been no secret that Obama harbors great antipathy toward Texas and the other red states, and there remain suspicions that the delay in aid was political in nature. Perry at that time was also a presidential contender, so the delay in aid could have been part of an effort to damage the governor. Six people were killed in those fires, which also injured an additional 62 and did more than half a billion dollars in damage. The media have left the political angles of the Texas wildfire denial and delay unexplored.