Public Servant or Bully? Payback’s a Real Bridge.


January 23, 2014 by gregrabidoux2013

Gov Christie

Hey, did you hear the one about a bridge, a closed lane and my presidential bid getting stuck in gridlock?

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.

the bridge

Don’t blame me. I have dreams of becoming more than just a bridge one day.

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.”

Gov C pointing

You will forget this day ever happened. Just wait and see. Or else.

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.

Richard Sherman

Just what do you people want anyways? Humble pie isn’t even a tasty desert.

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.



26 thoughts on “Public Servant or Bully? Payback’s a Real Bridge.

  1. Todd R says:

    The Governor does tend to be a bully but since when is politics supposed to be all nicey-nice?? NJ voters like him because he’s brash and not wimpy.

  2. Amelia says:

    Christie is a bully and the best way to prevent bullying in NJ politics? Vote him out of office!

  3. Bethany S says:

    It’s true we do often want contradictory qualities in our leaders and our sports figures. Of course maybe we don’t need to shove microphones right in front of them just as the game ends or while they are trying to get dressed in the locker room. C’mon! As far as Gov. Christie by the time 2016 rolls around this will be barely a blip!

  4. Wade M A says:

    While Christie’s approval ratings have gone down, Americans are a forgiving lot especially with as fast as events in the news change. His brashness seems to work well for the most part in New Jersey, but I don’t know how he will be received if he is able to escape the bridge incident unscathed enough to receive the Republican nomination for President. In any event, he will need to stay out of trouble between now and convention time.

  5. m. phillips says:

    Unfortunately, politicians are prone to stupid behavior. Christie is no different then the vast majority of the politicians we have serving except his administration got caught. In comparison to the other politicians though, his antics were not that bad. Not that I condone the abuse of power, but look at all the stuff coming out of Washington that the Obama administration denies knowledge of or won’t answer any questions.

  6. Sherri D says:

    This is what the other side of political appointments looks like. Christie’s actions aside, how do staff members get to a place where they can justify taking actions they clearly know (or should) are wrong? How can you be arrested for yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, but not for gridlocking a bridge? What about the ambulance on that bridge trying to get someone to the hospital? Where is the ethical integrity? Each person who took an action (whether it be a phone call, or physically closing the lane) had a hand to play in that irresponsible action. I would not be surprised to see civil (and possibly criminal) cases filed over this.

    The weird thing is – what was the plan to tie the gridlock back to the mayor of Fort Lee? How was this supposed to be a payback when responsibility for the bridge clearly falls under the state of NJ (Port Authority)? I don’t get it.

  7. Leslie H says:

    The bridge incident has certainly added fuel to the fire of his opponents to continue their scrutiny of his past, present, and future actions and those of his staff. I doubt this incident will have any lasting impact on his political aspirations because many Americans seem to have very short attention spans and even shorter memories regarding candidates with whom they agree on at least one important issue. If Christie can continue to focus on the issues that his supporters are passionate about then he can weather this storm. Of course, he needs to stay out of trouble because the spotlight just got a great deal brighter.

  8. Christopher B says:

    I’m entertained unfortunately it was at the expense of some poor guy in an ambulance and many other innocent travelers. It’s hard for me to understand how Governor Christie still has a job and probably even more surprising that the governor’s office had that much influence over a particular road without questions being raised by the guys that shut it down. I don’t know maybe things have gotten so crazy we don’t know what normal is. Purposely shutting down a road for some kind of personal vendetta is not brash, bullying, or direct it is corrupt.

  9. Jennifer M says:

    For whatever reason, it seems like you have to have a mix of both to be a successful politician these days. I personally could accept any of it if I believed it was actually the complete truth. I understand that political leaders are subject to the same human characteristics as the rest of us, but I don’t understand why the public seems so shocked when stories like this hit the news. The main thing that unsettles my mind is what we don’t know. The media publishes the information that they are given. If these are the things that we “know” then it’s pretty frightening to think about the things that happen that we don’t “know”.

  10. Amanda H D says:

    Voters seem to have short memories when it comes to misdeeds like this. Take governor Sanford for instance. The man disappeared, had an extra marital affair, used taxpayer funds on his trips to see his mistress, but somehow found his way back into Congress despite all the outrage that followed this scandal. I hear now that there is an investigation into Christie fiasco but I doubt anything will come of it.

  11. Burton F says:

    In my opinion, Christie knew about the bridge jam from the beginning. However, I don’t think he really cared if his employees did it or not. With this said, the man has been bold and unapologetic about his leadership in every way, until now. I watched several press conference news clips of him with hat in hand and alligator tears apologizing in a somber tone. This is the song of a guilty bully.

  12. Bryan L. says:

    Interestingly enough I find the parallels between sporting events and politics to be astounding. Both profess to require skill, agility and endurance. Both also insist they do what they do for the greater good (politicians for their constituents and athletes for their teammates and fans). The truth however seems to be more along the lines of “done for entertainment value” so they can achieve personal gains.

    Sure Richard Sherman made a good play…of course I believe that he’s paid handsomely, specifically to make those plays. Show a little class…

    As for as Governor Christie is concerned, a leader is only as good as his team. Whether he was aware of Bridge-gate or not he is responsible. Accountability has become a lost concept in this country. The Governor admits that although he was unaware, he is responsible for the actions because he is the leader, but will he be held accountable? Probably not. Does that make him a bully? Not hardly…

  13. Shannon V says:

    Whether public servant or bully, what strikes me most about the Christie situation is – whether or not he knew what was being planned – the actions ultimately are a reflection of him. The staff members in question who had a hand in the bridge debacle were individuals Christie brought on his staff. I am a firm believer in the notion that a good leader is only as good as the team he assembles. If those working on his team could stoop to such levels, it makes me wonder how much of it is attributed to the leadership culture Christie had in place.

  14. Ben F says:

    Surveys indicate that as a people we want truth and fairplay in government. Yet we routinely elect scoundrels. And we keep re-electing them. Either we don’t know what we want or we are just ashamed to tell the truth. And the truth is that Christie’s poll numbers in New Jersey are fine. His national numbers, especially as it relates to a presidential run in 2016, will probably take a hit. Look at history. We love leaders who lead. Until we don’t. I’m looking right at you, Winston Churchill.

  15. John B says:

    I’m not quite sure how Gov. Christie still has a job, but I’m not sure how President Obama has a job either. The White House has over stepped their boundaries in a few cases but I don’t hear anyone crying impeachment just yet. Christie may not have known that his administration would do something this dumb, but he is still accountable for their actions. As far as scandals go, this bridge fiasco is small but it got blown out of proportion because he is a Presidential Candidate. Not to mention he is a Republican governor in a largely Democratic State so he will always be under the microscope if he sneezes the wrong way. What happened was entirely wrong and appalling, and I’m really scratching my head why they couldn’t have thought of more subtle ways to get their point across. Is Dumb a good word to use here?

  16. Michelle B says:

    Whether he knew or not, it was still his people that made it happen. Although, I agree, soon the public will forget and focus on a new scandal.

  17. Candace S says:

    Gov. Christie whether public servant or bully is a debatable question. I question whether or not he knew about it before hand and played a part in planning it. Of course with him being a Presidential Candidate, any and everything he does is going to be blown out of proportion and scandalized. If you flip it from a different view, some would say it’s a publicity stunt to get his name out to the public because it is a little coincidental that this has happened when campaigning is soon to begin. Yes, the bridge fiasco is completely appalling but is there more to this story than what is being televised? We all know that public opinion changes from day to day. One day he’s a public servant and tomorrow he’s a hard-nosed bully. Will this hurt or benefit his run for President?

  18. Daniel C says:

    Chris Christie is skilled former US Attorney who is using his bravado and intellect to save his political career. His bravado is used as a tool to infer transparency, straight talk and forthrightness. Unfortunately, even though he has been painstakingly careful in his public comments, Christie has already spun a web of deception that is apparent to everyone except the most obtuse ideologue. (Or the average Fox News viewer) If you believe Christie has been able to achieve the success he has in his career without being complicit in the actions of his subordinates, then I have a beautiful piece of real estate to sell you at 1 Everbank Field Drive. Great views of the St, Johns River, call today for $49,900!

  19. Casey Holcom says:

    Chis Cristie is someone who had pretty high approval but recently seeing where all the Hurricane relief funds made me lose my support of him. I believe just recently it was reported that only 25% has actually been used and it’s frustrating to hear that.

  20. Lisa S says:

    I had not heard this story prior to reading this article. Situations such as this are a perfect example of why people are distrustful of politicians. Politicians seem to lack a sense of humbleness. Also, they must understand that without their constituents they are not politicians, they are just opinionated citizens. The sentiment of what people feel about politicians now more than ever is that they have their own agenda, which is usually power and money, and that citizens are just pawns in a game to help them get what they want. It would take a lot of guts and political connections for the staff to pull off such a hoax without any input from the head of the Governor’s office. Either way, just as the article stated, if he did not know the crew was, steering the ship, shame on him and if he was the mastermind, shame on him. If Governor Christie is counting on the nation to either be ignorant to this situation or uncaring, he must have forgot that we live in the world of social media. There will probably be a parody on SNL about this for the world to see at the worst time for Gov. Christie. Therefore, those that are ignorant now will be those that are also unforgiving later. Some have said the power of social media helped to elect Obama, which was in 2008. In technology years, that was twenty years ago. The 2016 campaign will certainly be a social media driven campaign. The victims outside of those stuck on the bridge, are the employees that have possibly lost their careers.

    Yes, our nation enjoys seeing a bully in action as long as the bully is targeting someone else. When a bully unleashes on the innocent, that is a game changer. That type of bully must be stopped because anyone is fair game for their destruction. It will be interesting to see what happens in 2016. Is our nation forgiving? Only time will tell.

  21. junior jackson says:

    Chris Christie has demonstrated that his loud outburst and his disrespectful behavior toward human beings are what will keep him from receiving the GOP nomination for the nation’s highest office. But aside from him just being a pompous idiot, the media covers him and the people in his state (my birthplace) are idiots for electing him and then the state wonders why NJ cannot sustain long term prosperity. We can condemn parents when they come up to school houses screaming and yelling about their child (no matter who’s at fault) but then the governor can scream and yell on camera at a women who simply asked him a question, that he could have simply declined to answer. To whom much is given much is required. And thats why Chris’s political power might just stop in NJ but the private sector is always looking for tough and disrespectful lobbyist and I believe Gov. Christie would be a shoe in.

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