Here’s What Chris Christie Got Right

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I stand by my assessment that Chris Christie’s leadership and management played a role in the retaliatory shutdown of Fort Lee’s access lanes to the George Washington Bridge. Yesterday, I compared the GWB scandal to several Obama scandals. I pointed out that conservatives must apply the same standards to Christie as we did to Obama when the IRS scandal broke.

Today, let’s look at Christie’s response and contrast it to Obama’s.

Christie Fired Somebody Close

Christie fired deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly within 24 hours of learning of the problem. Contrast that with Obama’s handling of IRS officials and senior White House lawyers. Obama let serial harasser Lois Lerner hang on for months, including months of paid leave, before she retired with full benefits. She wasn’t fired. She wasn’t prosecuted. Nor was senior White House counsel Robert Bauer. Bauer is busy prosecuting people who speak of voter fraud.

Christie Humbled Himself Before the People

When Chris Christie spoke today, he was clearly a man humbled. I’ve had to recite my failings before people whose respect I wanted. It sucks. Christie’s body language, tone of voice, and choice of words all screamed, “I wish I could go hide.” But Christie didn’t hide. He stoop up.

Obama, however, hid. Obama ignored the IRS scandal for weeks. His minions attacked the victims in public. When he spoke, he blamed unnamed GS-zeroes in the Midwest. No one within a thousand miles of the White House earned Obama’s scorn. As far as we know, the people who ordered the hit on the Tea Party got raises. And Obama’s demeanor throughout the ordeal was one of smug arrogance.

Christie Faced the Victims

After Governor Christie’s press conference–which lasted an hour–he went on an apology tour in Fort Lee. He went to Fort Lee’s mayor, a Democrat, to apologize in person–something few Americans do anymore.

Lewis Caroll’s imagination couldn’t conjure up a mental picture of King Obama stooping to apologize in person to victims of his criminal assault on political opponents. Obama isn’t man enough for that kind of humility or decency.

What It Means

I have no idea what it means for Christie’s future. I’m not a big fan of Chris Christie’s politics, and I think the bridge scandal speaks poorly of his judgment of people. And he could be lying about what he knew and when, for all we know.

But Christie demonstrated today how men of character handle embarrassing scandals. He said “I’m sorry,” he showed true contrition and humility, he fired a close adviser, and he apologized to victims face-to-face.

Leaders in business and government should learn from Chris Christie’s example. Christie showed us character in action. I hope it wasn’t an act, but if it was, it was a damn good one.

Why “Time for Some Traffic Problems in Fort Lee” Matters

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One argument put forth by conservatives–and even some liberals–regarding the IRS scandal was this:

Obama set a tone that encouraged IRS workers to harass conservative and Tea Party groups. He didn’t have to give a direct order. His tone and statements clearly condoned such criminal behavior toward his political enemies.

Kimberly Strassel at WSJ.com:

Mr. Obama didn’t need to pick up the phone. All he needed to do was exactly what he did do, in full view, for three years: Publicly suggest that conservative political groups were engaged in nefarious deeds; publicly call out by name political opponents whom he’d like to see harassed; and publicly have his party pressure the IRS to take action.

Peggy Noonan, likewise, wrote:

A president sets a mood, a tone. He establishes an atmosphere. If he is arrogant, arrogance spreads. If he is too partisan, too disrespecting of political adversaries, that spreads too. Presidents always undo themselves and then blame it on the third guy in the last row in the sleepy agency across town.

I still believe that’s a strong, effective, and truthful indictment of President Obama.

If it’s true of Obama, then it’s equally true of Democrats’ favorite Republican, Chris Christie, the Godfather Governor of New Jersey.

We’ve been reading about Christie’s heavy-handed punishment of Republicans and Democrats who defy his dictates. Sure, we all cheer when a governor stands up to abusive teachers’ unions. But standing up to bullies–and teachers unions are bullies–is not bullying. Other Christie action were bullying.

The New York Times ran a story on Christmas Eve that recounted several instances of Christie’s bullying.

  • a former governor who was stripped of police security at public events;
  • a Rutgers professor who lost state financing for cherished programs;
  • a state senator whose candidate for a judgeship suddenly stalled;
  • another senator who was disinvited from an event with the governor in his own district.

Even the conservative site NewsMax wrote about the growing problem of Christie’s dark side.

Meanwhile, the Republican establishment has all but ordained Christie its party’s 2016 nominee. That GOP establishment is doing for Christie what it did for Romney–secure all the money and all the endorsements before anyone else forms an exploratory committee. The establishment that wants amnesty in Washington and Medicaid expansion in Missouri also wants Christie to run unopposed. It’s their usual, losing “play to the middle” strategy. Kinder, gentler losers.

That “play to the middle” strategy could bite the party hard this time.

Today, we learned that a top aide to Christie authorized the shutdown of George Washington Bridge accesses to the town of Fort Lee. The shutdown was an act of political retribution. Fort Lee’s mayor, a Democrat, refused to endorse Christie for re-election.

Texting Kills

Transcripts of emails and text messages are damning. Emails between Christie’s deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, and Port Authority authority, David Wildstein, leave little doubt that the GWB shudown was payback:

Kelly to Wildstein: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”

Wildstein’s response: “Got it.”

The shutdown caused major traffic nightmares in Fort Lee. A 91-year-old died when an ambulance couldn’t respond to her distress call. Three other emergency calls were delayed by traffic.

If the exchange between Kelly and Wildstein left room for doubt as to the motivation for the shutdown, a text message exchange between Wildstein and undisclosed correspondent removes all doubt. From BigGovernment. com:

The undisclosed person also wrote, “I feel badly about the kids, I guess.” Wildstein wrote, “They are the children of Buono voters,” referring to Christie opponent and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono.

Christie’s Excuses Mirror Obama’s

Governor Christie has avoided the press since today’s disclosure. After cancelling a scheduled appearance to celebrate recovery from Hurricane Sandy, Christie released a statement claiming his staffers “misled” him about the reason for the bridge closure. He went on to say that he learned of the true motivation for the closure only today.

But, as former Christie fan Josh Barro points out on BusinessInsider.com, Christie’s claim holds no water. Barro writes:

There have been 117 intervening days, during which Christie accepted the resignations of two of his Port Authority appointees who are caught up in this scandal. I assume he and his top staff have had a lot of conversations during that time, trying to figure out exactly what happened in Fort Lee.

Did his people really manage to keep him in the dark for that entire time such that he’s shocked today? If so, what does that say about his skills as a personnel manager?

If Barack Obama set a tone that implicitly condoned IRS harassment of Tea Party groups, then Christie, at least, set a tone that encouraged his underlings to shut down a bridge for political retribution.

Kimberly Strassel’s description of Obama’s reaction to the IRS scandal sounds exactly like Christie’s “outrage.”

Mr. Obama now professes shock and outrage that bureaucrats at the IRS did exactly what the president of the United States said was the right and honorable thing to do.

I think Obama should be vilified over the IRS scandal, the NSA scandal, Obamacare, and numerous other infringements on human rights. Only an establishment party hack could hold Chris Christie to a lower standard.