If I ever doubted why Chris Christie should not be president of the United States, I don't any longer after reading Ryan Lizza's scorching article in the April 14 issue of The New Yorker.
Titled "Crossing Christie: What the bridge scandal says about the Governor's political style, and his future," Lizza's article -- aptly illustrated with a drawing of the beefy Christie wearing an orange and white traffic cone -- exposes and explains the ugly culture in which the New Jersey governor operates.
It's definitely one that I don't want to see in the White House. Yes, I know the late, great Tip O'Neill said politics ain't beanbag. But it ain't the mafia either, where the family and friends of the guy who has just been rubbed out is told, "Don't take it personal, it's just business."
That's pretty much the way Christie, as well as his supporters and opponents, play the game of politics, according to Lizza, who quotes former Governor Tom Kean, Christie's political mentor, until they had a falling out last November.
"He doesn't always try to persuade you with reason," Kean told Lizza. "He makes you feel that your life's going to be very unhappy if you don't do what he says." It's a skill Christie demonstrated with the now-famous effort to tie up traffic by limiting access to the George Washington Bridge at Fort Lee in September.
Kean added that one of Christie's flaws "is that he makes enemies and he keeps them. As long as you're riding high, they'll stay in the weeds, because they don't want to get in your way. But you get in trouble, they'll all come out of the weeds, and come at you."
Well, they're coming at him from all directions now and his presidential ambitions after his impressive reelection as governor in November 2013 have been derailed by accusations that he engineered the gridlock on the George Washington bridge as a plot to punish the local mayor for failing to endorse his reelection.
But that's apparently just the way they play politics in New Jersey. Screw your enemies and reward your friends. And that's exactly what I don't want to see in the White House, or in Congress or in any statehouse in the U.S. We had that with Nixon and look what happened.
Lizza's article delves deeply into Christie's rise from failed state Senate candidate to his campaign for freeholder or county commissioner, which he won with the help of false ads about his three opponents for which he was forced to apologize. The son of one of them said Christie's actions were "beyond the pale of what anyone had ever done in politics in Morris County. He was a lawyer who said they were being criminally investigated. He looked into the camera and lied."
As soon as he was being sworn in, Christie began campaigning for a state assembly seat. But the fellow Republican he teamed up with, said "It turned out to be the worst mistake I ever made." Christie attacked the incumbent assemblyman, who had supported Christie's earlier election, calling his style of politics "character assassination."
He came in fourth in that election and two years later, lost his freeholder's seat, coming in fifth out of five candidates, and returned to the practice of law. But he hooked up with George W. Bush's presidential campaign as his the lawyer for his New Jersey campaign, and President Bush nominated him as the state's U.S. attorney.
"He wasn't the most qualified," Kean told Lizza. "Just on legal expertise and law enforcement expertise, there were people who wanted the nomination were who better qualified."
But Christie got the job in 2002 and did well in it, using it as a springboard for election to governor in 2009. He worked with Democratic Party bosses to pass major legislative initiatives, including a bill to curb the costs of pension and healthcare benefits for public employees, which brought him national attention and sparked talk as a GOP presidential hopeful.
But that all came a cropper with the bridge scandal, for which his successor as U.S. attorney is considering a criminal investigation. Although former Gov. Kean believes Christie's insistence that he knew nothing about the lane closures that caused the traffic gridlock, he suggests that Christie "created an atmosphere" in which some of his aides "thought they were doing his will because they were getting back at people." Kean added, "If you cross Christie, he will come back at you, even years later."
In sum, I have to say that I agree with the comedian who said to Christie, during a celebrity roast in April to celebrate the 90th birthday for former Gov. Brendan Byrne, "You scare the shit out of me."
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