Bob Pinzler

On Local Government: Chris Christie and the limits of power

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Politics has often been called “show business for the ugly.” The commonalities are legion, but the overriding one is that there is a belief in invincibility. Exhibit A is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

He was probably listening to his politically-oriented staff, rather than his own fine-tuned political ear, when he was convinced to show the world that he could get a huge volume of re-election endorsements from across the political spectrum. This would, of course, show potential 2016 Presidential voters that he is the new vision of bi-partisanship.

While the events that followed are still a bit murky, what is clear is that those Democratic mayors, particularly the one in Ft. Lee, who didn’t sign on were going to pay a price. Considering that this is New Jersey we are speaking of, one never really knows what that retribution might just be.

Aides who come out of the political realm think differently than those who toil in the mire of policy. They think of reaction rather than process. Thus, when someone the Governor wanted said no, the first thought was how to get even.

In the case of Ft. Lee, it meant a trumped up “traffic study” which caused lengthy traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge to New York City, the bridge with the highest daily volume of traffic in the US.

The problem politicos have is that their sense of invincibility leads them to true stupidity. The New Jersey perpetrators left an electronic “paper” trail of emails which indicated exactly what they were doing and why.

Why, you might you ask, would they do something so stupid? Because they believe they can. After all, they are protected by the power of the seemingly untouchable “guy in the big office.” Now, they are looking for work.

We often shake our heads at the truly dumb things people in show business do to mess up what seems on the surface to be charmed lives. But, when they do mess up, the damage is usually limited to a few people. When politicians screw up, the damage often affects many innocents, with that damage sometimes being fatal, as seems to be the case in the Ft. Lee incident.

An additional problem a politician creates for him/herself is that they show vulnerability, which gives their opponents an opening to find out and publicize other things that would likely have stayed hidden. You can bet that the thing that may ultimately “get” Gov. Christie will be something we don’t yet know about.

Secrets can only stay that way when the participants are kept close. Throwing people “under the bus” may not be the best way to maintain their loyalty/silence. All you need is one to “go rogue” and the entire house of cards comes down.

The next few weeks are going to be interesting. If Gov. Christie goes over the cliff, it will be fascinating to see who does the pushing.


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