January 23, 2014 by gregrabidoux2013
We like tough guys but frown on thugs, just ask Richard Sherman of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. We want directness but value diplomacy. We want someone to tell it like it is but still be civil. In short be brash but don’t be a bully. We want the truth but don’t hurt our feelings. Geez, what’s an everyman, plus-sized Governor from the Garden State of New Jersey supposed to do?
Just exactly, what do you want people?, I don’t have all day, the race for the White House in 2016 starts sooner than you think.
Okay, in case you were um, stuck in traffic lately and missed it, here’s the brief primer: Some staffers on Governor Christie’s team apparently decided it was “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” as a way to get some political payback at the Mayor of Fort Lee, NJ, Mark Sokolich, who didn’t support Chris Christie, a Republican, in his re-election bid. So, Bridget Anne Kelly, the Governor’s aide gets the message to David Wildstein, a Christie appointee who heads up Port Authority for NJ/NY and can shut down things line traffic lanes on bridges and so he does just that.
The George Washington Bridge which connects into Fort Lee, NJ, finds itself snarled with traffic one fine morning during rush hour commuting. Truck drivers get stalled, school buses get late to school, Moms get angry (never a good thing) and apparently, a certain ambulance doesn’t get to a hospital on time which may or may not have been the primary cause of a patient dying.
Wow. Payback is indeed a real bridge.
Especially when traffic backs up so bad it gridlocks all the way to the Governor’s mansion and bites Mr. Christie on his gubernatorial backside.
So, what follows next pretty much sticks to the standard crisis-management script. Ms. Kelly gets fired. His former campaign manager, Bill Stepien, a co-mastermind in this traffic snafu is ousted as future NJ top GOP chair, Mr. Wildstein will be lucky to take change on the GW Bridge toll-booth let alone direct the Port Authority and the Governor apologizes. A lot.
In a sprawling mea culpa of a press conference we are let in on such intimacies as the Governor’s new workout regimen (he claimed that’s where he was and what he was doing when he found out) and that he thinks the whole incident was “abject stupidity” and was “sick over this” and “embarrassed and humiliated.”
But importantly, he didn’t know this was being planned. Or so he claims.
If, he knew, then it seems his trademark and much celebrated brashness just seems petty and even bullying. If he didn’t know, as he claims, then he looks like he’s on the lower deck looking at the waves while others are steering the ship of state. Neither exactly burnishes his 2016 presidential credentials.
Which brings me back to Richard Sherman. The wonderfully talented corner back for the Super Bowl bound Seattle Seahawks who tipped the ball away from Michael Crabtree of the SF 49ers to seal the win for his team should be enjoying nothing but love for his brashness and skill. Instead, his comments after the game now have many debating whether he’s just a bully who also happens to be good at football.
Is it us? Are we fickle? Do we admire toughness but we also want our tough guys and gals to somehow flip a switch and in the heat of the moment also be classy and civil? Do we want our politicians and public servants to be honest, open and direct but do we look away when they exhibit these same qualities in sending messages to their political opponents?
For now at least, the good people of New Jersey may not like the underbelly (sorry Governor) that is Chris Christie. Latest approval polls show he’s tanking a bit, from 65% before his bridge to nowhere fiasco to 45% now.
But Governor Christie has two major positives going for him and the road to the White House. We, Americans, tend not to know a whole lot about politics and we seem to care even less.
And it’s probably not a stretch in this case that Mr. Christie is counting on both of those facts to hold true come 2016.
Brash everyman or nasty bully? Maybe, our political and sporting heroes have always been a bit of both.