QUOTATION OF THE DAY (NY Times)
"I am who I am. But I am not a bully."
"Either he's lying or he's a bad leader not to have known what his staff was up to."
"Well, his staff must have thought they were doing what they needed to do to make their boss look good. At least he took responsibility for that. But why did it even occur to them to do something like that? What else have they done that 'the boss' doesn't know about?""If you can't be trusted in small things, you can't be trusted in big things. Says so right in the Bible. (I'm just reporting here). So, if he's a bully about small things, he's going to be a bully about big things, too. He's from NJ. What do you expect?"
"Seems to me that when a leader does something you agree with, he's 'decisive'. When he does something you don't like, he's a 'bully'.""Yeah, and if you like a leader and he stays on task, he's 'focused'. If you don't like him and he does something you don't agree with, he's arrogant.
"Yeah, well what about Benghazi? Four people died in Benghazi! Who died in NY?
What caught my ear was the conversation about "decisive v bully" and "focused v arrogant".
It's a slippery slope, isn't it?
Where is the line between being focused on your task and being blind to the rights of others?
I think the proof is in the pudding.
A long time ago, one of my political mentors gave me this standard: "You have the absolute right," he said, "to wave your arms as wildly as you wish; but that right ends at the tip of my nose."
Yes, Governor Christie and his administrative staff have the absolute right to pursue a course of action that he and they believe is consistent with what they believe and what they believe is best for the people who elected them to office.
No, they do not have the right to hurt people in the process.
Ah, but here comes the rub: What constitutes 'hurt'?
Opponents of everything from the Affordable Care Act to Reproductive Justice to Marriage Equality say that these laws 'hurt' them, and hurt this country. They even claim that their 'religious freedom' is being compromised.
There are a surprising number of law suits and pieces of litigation pending concerning these three areas of social concern which allege 'harm'.
In the strict sense of personal affront, they may well be absolutely correct. In terms of the law of the land, however, their claim holds no weight.
Indeed, their claims distort the principle of 'freedom of religion' to a state where the principle itself is barely recognizable.
Not so with "Bridgegate". Not only were people actually hurt - one woman died! - but the act itself was against the law. This is no doubt why several of the men involved have "taken the fifth" when asked for their testimony unless granted immunity from prosecution.
How does stuff like this happen? Well, it can't be denied that there are lots of 'political dirty tricks' that happen every day which fly under the public radar. Stuff that actually hurts individuals. That is an unfortunate reality of political life.
Bridgegate, however, goes way past 'decisiveness' and 'focus' and is a perfect example of bullying and arrogance. It's pretty clear that this was mean-spirited political retribution.
The leader sets the tone. Governor Christie is known for his sharp, pointed political rhetoric. He is, in a word, blunt, even calling the staff person who lied to him about Bridegate "stupid".
No argument here on that, but might there have been a different adjective he could have used? Oh, there is no doubt. "Ill-advised". "Unwarranted." "Not smart." And a few others come to mind.
"Stupid" pushes the point of necessity and is unnecessarily demeaning.
He fits the stereotype of someone from New Jersey, but it's just a stereotype, same as the 'hick' from the Midwest, the 'city slicker' from New York, the 'granola head' from California or 'cheese head' (full of holes) from Wisconsin.
He "doesn't mince words" and "tells it like it is." It's "refreshing," some say, for a politician to say what he means and mean what he says because "you can trust him". He's "one of us" - a "Joisey boy" - who doesn't put any spit and polish on public discourse. We understand him. He may be "a little rough around the edges" but, see?, "he gets the job done".
Well, it seems that would not always be the case.
More to the point, that kind of standard for rhetoric and action creates a climate and an environment which sets the stage for a Bridgegate to become possible.
Indeed, I think the Governor of NJ needs to do a little soul searching this weekend. A little of what the nuns he and I both grew up with would call "an examination of conscious".
When Christie takes responsibility for establishing an administrative environment which permitted - and, in fact, encouraged - the behavior of his staff, I'll start to believe that he is 'presidential material'.
That would be "refreshing". I'll start to believe he may be worthy of "trust" (as politicians go).
I'm remembering all those things my grandmother and mother and nuns taught me:
When you point a finger, just remember there's a nail at the end.I'm also remembering what Shakespeare would have said about his statement "I'm not a bully" - which is reminiscent of Nixon's "I'm not a crook.
When you point a finger, just remember that there are three more pointing back at you.
When you try to make someone else look bad, you never make yourself look good
"The lady (man) doth protest too much, methinks." (Gertrude, scene ii)Unless and until the Governor of NJ begins to take some personal - not just professional, personal - responsibility for "Bridgegate," he'll just be "The Bully from New Jersey".
Not a focused, decisive leader who is worthy of election as President of The United States.