As a Democrat from Pennsylvania who is hoping Hillary Clinton will run for president in 2016, I am not doing cartwheels over New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's latest troubles with Bridgegate and other scandals involving Hurricane Sandy aid.
I am one who liked his direct approach to politics. I cheered him when he appointed a Muslim judge, Sohail Mohammed and his chastising his critics for opposing it. I was glad when he stood up to rowdy town hall meeting participants who constantly tried to disrupt the proceedings.
I admired his stance on lowering the flag over the statehouse to half-mast when Whitney Houston died. I can only imagine the kind of hate mail he got over that one. I received many nasty comments responding to my Huffington Post blog: "Whitney Houston Was a Hero Too" in which I praised the Governor for his decision.
I was moved by his embrace of President Obama after Hurricane Sandy and the compassion and care he showed to the victims of that super storm. I believe his expressions of grief and empathy were real. I believe Christie loves his home state and the people in it.
I liked what he told newscasters from Fox News when he said he could care less about promoting Mitt Romney after the storm hit and that he was doing what he needed to do to make sure his citizens got the FEMA aid they deserved.
By these examples, it appeared he was a politician that operated from his conscience not by polls or what others thought of him. Through the years he has thumbed his nose at Tea Party types and left wing pundits alike. He was an equal opportunity straight shooter yelling at both men and women and in disaster moments comforting GOP, Democrats, and Independents alike.
I like that he was flexible enough to change his stance on gay rights by signing a bill banning gay conversion therapy >and not fighting the NJ court's decision to allow same sex marriage in the state.
I like that he switched to being pro-life after seeing his daughter pre-natally in 1995. Christie is quoted as saying: "I had been pro-choice before that. It was just kind of the default position that I took. And we heard this incredibly strong heartbeat. And I remember we came separately. And I was driving back to work, I said to myself, you know, as to my position on abortion, I would say that a week ago that wasn't a life. And I heard that heartbeat." It shows that he takes personal inventory on such issues.
I like that he recently signed the DREAM act into law in NJ extending in-state benefits at public universities to undocumented students. I like that he supported Medicaid for New Jersey through the Affordable Care Act.
I enjoyed his appearance on The Late Show where he offered the host a doughnut, showing he is good natured about David Letterman's constant jokes about his weight.
So it was disappointing to read some of the emails from his staff regarding the closing of lanes on the George Washington Bridge that showed a callous disregard for Fort Lee residents' school students caught on the bridge: "They are the children of Buono voters." (Referring to NJ Democratic State Senator Barbara Buono, Christie's opponent in the 2012 election.)
Those comments and the whole distasteful event undercut everything I thought about Governor Christie's administration being one of bi-partisan working togetherness. Even if Christie did not know about the emails it shows a culture in his staff of rampant disdain for anyone not on Christie's team.
And if what Democratic Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer says is true about being pressured to accept a development deal involving the governor's hand picked company or she would not receive Sandy aid, it makes me wonder if any of the NJ Democratic politicians who endorsed Christie were bullied into it. Apparently while the governor presented a strong and compassionate public persona, there were things happening behind the scenes that I and many were not aware of.
While the investigations continue we may not know the truth for months to come. It would be wrong to condemn Governor Christie before the facts come out. But as he expressed in his nearly two hour press conference after the emails were made public, his main emotion was sadness that day.
That is what I am feeling right now. Sad that a promising governor and moderate Republican (on the endangered list) who always spoke his mind without worrying about the backlash is in such hot water right now.
I don't fault MSNBC and CNN for their continuing coverage of this scandal because it is fascinating. And Fox is still presenting stories on Benghazi and the IRS scandals even though congressional investigations have not led to the Oval office.
Bridegate is here to stay for awhile, which only means headaches for Governor Chrisite. On the other hand, his leadership is being severely tested and how he handles this could either be a boost for his presidential ambitions or the end of them. Either way, I am a sad Democrat today.