Can we admit that there are some type of bully-ish people that we secretly root for?
Clearly, the term bully is so loaded today that anyone -- whether a politician, business executive or self-important school mom -- will now instinctively steer away from being branded that label. It explains why during New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's mea culpa press conference over allegations his staff creating epic traffic jams for political revenge, he defensively declared: "I am not a bully."
The issue about bullying in a political context is simple: To what end? President Johnson had to strong arm Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act -- but the end justified the means. But using bridge delays to bully a political rival for payback? That's not just petty, it's a stupid act of hubris.
Political culture, like office culture, is determined at the top.
Perhaps it is time to examine bullying at its granular level and admit that there are certain types that are more palpable and forgivable than others.
We didn't mind Steve Jobs being a bully. He was legendary in his verbal violence, lobbed at any employee who didn't measure up to his intellectual firepower. He belittled. He condescended. He rarely showed appreciation or compassion. He was what I call a Yell-ow Bull. Unless you were thick-skinned and confident in your abilities, working for him would be a form of daily torture.
But the Apple entrepreneur was given a pass -- at least by the public -- because he helped create the iPhone, iTunes, iPad. He kept demanding better from his staff. So now he's not as much a bully as someone who was difficult to work for but admired for his technological innovations.
Then there was Teddy Roosevelt, who in my book, The Need to Say No, I refer to as the Teddy Bear Bull. He cared deeply about fairness, justice, women's rights, and the average guy getting a "square deal." He was determined to combat corporate cronyism.
President Roosevelt outsmarted powerful bulls of big business by using intellect, a bully pulpit to corral innovative ideas and sheer force of personality to defeat opposition. We love this type of leader -- one who can bully their way to social reform we support.
If you're going to wage a vendetta, at least make it a well-thought out one. If you want to be malicious, it would be so easy to put a project close to the mayor's heart on hold for a few months or redirect 60 state snowplows the night before a storm.
Now the storm has blown into Christie's face. Those emails are not only damning but disturbing. We can applaud any politician who speaks his or her mind, sans PR-sanctioned sound bites. We can forgive rough, brash personalities -- from either party -- if they fight the good fight. But cover-ups? Firing fall guys (or girls)? Punishing political rivals at the public's expense? That's another story.
If Christie really wants to issue a genuine apology, he could start by admitting, in time-honored 12-step fashion, the obvious: My name is Chris Christie and I am a bully.
Follow Jill Brooke on Twitter: www.twitter.com/knowbsplease