new jersey

Caveat Emperor

The end was contained in the beginning. 
― George Orwell, 1984

If you are at all interested in the high drama currently playing out around the Governor of New Jersey – and you should be – this extraordinary piece by Alec MacGillis in The New Republic is absolutely essential reading.

You see, New Jersey is different from your state and mine. Its entire political system – from small-town mayor to county executive to state and federal offices – is a finely tuned instrument of graft which is at the service of the governor and his cronies.

Chris Christie’s entire career – from twice-failed candidate for local office to ambulance-chasing lawyer to US Attorney to governor to prohibitive favorite as GOP nominee in 2016 – has reflected his journey from kneeling at the feet of New Jersey’s power brokers to becoming the ultimate political boss.

The 2013 elections in New Jersey only become understandable when viewed through the lens of this article. Christie’s only qualification for the US Attorney’s job was his profligate fundraising for George W. Bush. The only reason he was actually confirmed for that powerful office is that then Senator Bob Torricelli knew he was in the crosshairs of an investigation, and needed a well-positioned ally. Once installed as US Attorney, Christie had no shortage of corrupt politicos to prosecute. He mostly went after the Dems, but hit enough Republicans to give his ethical crusades a “bipartisan” flavor. The Democrats he left standing became vastly more powerful, loyal to Christie – and he to them. That explains how Christie won re-election by 22 points while Trenton did not gain a single Republican seat. And why the “Democratic” machine in Jersey barely even noticed that Barbara Buono was its candidate for governor.

Christie’s genius is that he has played this game for so long and so effectively, all the while convincing the press and the voters that he is really a crusader against corruption, the savior of New Jersey. In Chris-Christie-Time-Magazine-224x300reality, Chris Christie isn’t Tony Soprano. No, Chris Christie eats the Sopranos for lunch.

And the arrogant abuse of power that we have come to know as #bridgegate really is only the beginning. Or the beginning of the end for Mr Christie. I haven’t seen a piece of investigative journalism like this in a long time, and I urge you to read it. Because whatever becomes of the investigations surrounding Bridgegate and the misappropriation of Sandy relief aid, I believe Alec MacGillis has already answered the most important question: Why won’t Chris Christie be the nation’s 45th president?

The New Republic: Chris Christie’s Rise and Fall

A Bridge Too Far

bridge to nowhere

The fabled New Jersey Turnpike (“You from Jersey? What exit?”) officially ends at the halfway point of the George Washington Bridge, where New Jersey gives way to New York.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s political future may also end on that mighty bridge. Put that in the tragic irony folder. Christie had been anointed by an overeager media as the savior of the Grand Old Party. A Republican who can reach across the aisle, bridge the American political divide. His post-Sandy bromance with President Obama may have infuriated the Romney campaign (coming as it did a week before the election)… but it had the politically purple parts of America swooning. Here comes Chris Christie! The only Republican with the, er, heft to derail the Hillary Clinton juggernaut.

We knew he had serious presidential ambitions when he underwent lap band surgery to get from super-sized to Super Tuesday. After all, it would be rather embarrassing to have to trade in Air Force One for a C-130 Hercules. Oh, that was mean.

But that’s the point: Christie is mean. He is an arrogant, thin-skinned bully who yells at teachers, calls voters idiots, sneers at reporters. His enormous physical presence magnifies his swagger, and that has helped him. Until now. Now Chris Christie just seems like the incredible shrinking governor. Shutting down access to the busiest bridge in the nation for four days to punish the mayor of Fort Lee (who refused to endorse his candidacy) was an extraordinary abuse of power.

And it comes as a surprise to absolutely no one. Except Mr Christie, who is surprised to learn that as a politician he is mortal, and now very likely mortally wounded. I don’t think he’ll finish his second term – which hasn’t even officially begun yet. That may be wishful thinking. We’ll see.

One bit of political fallout from this debacle is mostly background noise for now, but it shows you where the leadership of the national GOP is headed. The teabagger wing (the tail) of the party (the dog) has been giving the press off-the-cuff sound bites throwing Christie under the 2016 campaign bus. That’s all we need to know about the road to the White House for President Hillary Clinton. The “Republican base” which controls the primaries was never going to allow “the savior of the GOP” to get the nomination – not even if he slimmed down enough to model for Playgirl, Scott Brown style.

Note: this might have been my #100happydays entry for today, but that’s just not in the spirit of that project. But this spectacular Christie clusterfuck does make me happy. I hate bullies. And I love it when they get their comeuppance so publicly.