Not even the Teflon fleece can save him now: the hypocrisy of pretending to be a man of the people and using the government to hurt the people will spell the end of Chris Christie's presidential chances.
By cultivating a culture of bullying that morphed from yelling at public employees to using them for political vendettas in closing down parts of the George Washington Bridge for 4 days -- including limiting access to New York City on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks -- Chris Christie has ended his chances for presidency, and will be lucky to keep his current job as Governor of New Jersey.
The culture of bullying was obvious to anyone who saw Chris Christie skyrocket to national fame by yelling at teachers on YouTube. Rather than question the obvious power imbalance of the governor versus a constituent, the national media lapped up his rants and mistook temperament for conviction. "I am not a focus-group blow-dried candidate" said Christie during his "I am not a bully" press conference in what seemed like a focus-grouped line calculated to conflate bullying with leadership.
Until this week, many did see Chris Christie as a man of the people. Love or hate his rants at constituents, when it came to Hurricane Sandy, Christie directed his famous temper directly at the tempest -- visiting waterlogged communities, comforting devastated constituents, fighting his own party literally come hell or high in pushing Washington Republicans for emergency aid. To his everlasting credit, Christie's efforts during Sandy utilized his persuasion tactics for the common good.
So how did Christie go from the much-admired Sandy avenger to the petty pol who would close down bridge lanes in a vendetta against the Fort Lee Mayor, Mark Sokolich, or -- as Rachel Maddow was first to posit -- against the town's state senator and the state's Democratic Senate Leader Loretta Weinberg?
Part of Team Christie's downfall was the arrogance of power. In my 8 years teaching hundreds of campaign boot camps around the country and 12 years prior serving as a government attorney in local and federal government, I have seen the political ego up close and personal. I know how staffers who adore their bosses -- as Team Christie obviously did -- create a groupthink around the principal where dissenting voices are not heard and how "running up the score" as the governor himself put it means bringing trophies to the boss, be it endorsements from mayors, defeat of political enemies or traffic problems in Fort Lee. Sandy aid was a real political trophy; stopping traffic to punish enemies was laughably small in comparison, but once in the cycle, staff keep feeding the boss' ego -- and their own.
What Team Christie's arrogance did was make people think that because they were invincible, they were invisible. They used non-government email accounts to communicate in what they fallaciously thought were private conversations aimed at blocking "public discourse" about the bridge closure "fiasco."
How could they be so wrong? Team Christie was floating their boss for vice president at the exact same time that potential rival David Petraeus resigned as CIA director over a cache of personal emails with his biographer. And as we sit here today, some other political team is chortling or tsking at team Christie while using social media to communicate their own political sins. That's the teaching moment about the arrogance of power -- without personal discipline and adult supervision; any team can let it run amok.
While the attorneys sift through the evidence and learn what Christie knew, what he didn't want to know, when he didn't want to know it and what if any laws were broken, let's take a view from 10,000 feet.
The case of The People vs. Chris Christie has less to do with unlawful highway tampering, espoliation of evidence and suborning perjury and more to do with the culture of bullying he created and its harm to his bosses -- the people of New Jersey. The aspiring president who used his Teflon Fleece as protection from the political elements is now exposed as the emperor who had no clothes. His staff created a groupthink around him where he could do no wrong -- and where political trophies extended beyond rival politicians to the public they all serve.
Team Christie used government of by and for the people to actually harm the people. That is the ultimate sin voters will not forgive: rewarding friends and punishing enemies within the ethical and legal boundaries of the law is one thing, but deliberately harming the people you are sworn to serve is another. The lesson every schoolchild in America, from the ones stalled in busses on the George Washington Bridge to those in classrooms in Iowa, New Hampshire and across America, is that the minute anyone forgets that higher call to service it is time for them to go. The teaching moment for America's children in The People vs. Chris Christie is that public service is our noblest calling -- and no one is more important than the people they serve.
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