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Chris Christie, You Lost My Vote

01/17/2014 10:22 am ET | Updated Mar 19, 2014
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In his non-apology about "bridgegate," Governor Chris Christie lost my vote. In his "mistakes were clearly made" pabulum, Christie failed the test of leadership. It doesn't matter whether you think Christie is a bully. It doesn't matter how much Christie knew about the bridge lane closures and when he knew it. What matters is how he's evaded responsibility for it. Evasiveness is the last quality we need in the next president of the United States.

When you're the governor, you're much like the pilot of a 747 or the captain of a ship. You're in charge. You create a climate within your command. Your actions and behavior set the tone. Your crew looks to you as a model for their own behavior.

Obviously, Christie's senior staffers looked to him and decided that petty retribution was perfectly consistent with the tone set by Christie himself. Maybe these staffers truly misread Christie. Even so, Christie chose them. Either these staffers rightly believed they were acting in accordance with Christie's stated (and unstated) directives, or Christie empowered people within his organization who didn't have a clue about his ideals. Neither conclusion reflects well on Christie.

What should Christie have done? He should have stepped up and offered an immediate and personal apology. He should have said "I'm sorry" to every motorist stuck in that traffic jam. And he should have apologized to every resident of New Jersey for the reckless disregard his staffers had for public safety.

In other words, this should have been his Truman moment, a time for "the buck stops here," a time to man up and admit his responsibility as the captain of his ship.

During his "State of the State" address on January 14, Christie finally admitted his responsibility as governor for what happens on his watch. But it was a case of too little, too late.

He initially hid behind "the abject stupidity" of his staffers. Even in his address on the 14th, he continued to hide behind that old "mistakes were made" mantra, that classic passive voice construction of politicians seeking to duck direct responsibility.

Christie wants authority without personal responsibility. He's quick to hold others responsible but not himself. He equivocates when he should be unequivocal.

And for those reasons he's lost my vote in 2016.

Astore writes regularly for TomDispatch.com and The Contrary Perspective and can be reached at wjastore@gmail.com.