Thursday, January 09, 2014

Though Christie Didn't Put It There, New Jersey Does Have A Severed Horse's Head On It's State Flag


As a service to people who watch Fox News, which has made a great effort to block out the unfolding Chris Christie scandal, here's what happened today to their shockingly incompetent hero-- aside from this, of course:

Chris Christie succeeded at one thing in his press conference today. He acted civilly. He didn't thrust a pudgy finger into any women's faces and scream at them; he had his bullying instincts in check. He announced that he was "embarrassed and humiliated" that his bridge scandal was uncovered and that he was firing more staffers-- this time deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly and his campaign manager, state GOP head Bill Stepian-- as though anyone other than the most gullible think the guilt lies anywhere than with himself. "I'm a sad guy standing here today." Is there a silver cloud somewhere in this for Christie? Yes and no. Looks like Governor Soprano, who has turned this scandal into an opportunity to make himself into a victim and for perspective voters nationally to see how he manages a crisis (and that's the "no"), hasn't been eating as much as usual though (and that's the "yes").

No credible Christie watchers believe any of this attempt to blame "rogue" staffers. A Barbara Buono told Andrea Mitchell, the Christie office is run like a paramilitary organization and no one sneezes or goes to the bathroom without his permission. He wants people to believe that 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 or 10 of his top staffers put this whole conspiracy together without him and then kept him in the dark about it for weeks and weeks? New Jersey's voters made have been taken in his his persona before, but they're not this stupid and, more important, neither are voters in Iowa, New Hampshire or even South Carolina. After his performance today, Lindsey Graham said he couldn't win in the South and that everyone could see that he's a "bully… You know, he's a little too slick by half," said the South Carolina senior senator.

Meanwhile, one of Christie's primary hatchetmen, David Wildstein took the 5th over and over again, rather than incriminate himself today at a state legislative hearing into the Christie scandal. Later in the day, his lawyer implied, pretty strongly, that he would turn state's evidence if he was granted immunity from prosecution himself. Everyone loves a rat. Presumably, all Christie's aides will follow suit, take the 5th and obstruct justice. If the Republicans lose the House in November, Darrell Issa won't be running the investigation committee and I'd love to see a real investigation into why Christie thought he could disrupt interstate traffic with impunity.

Journalists who have followed Christie most carefully are now agreeing that his carefully devised, no-nonsense image is in peril. The guy is coming across not just as a bully-- a majority of NJ voters seem to like that-- but as a pitiful incompetent who can't even control his own staff.
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey has built a remarkable brand in Republican politics around a simple message: that his bluster and brashness, grating as they might be, were driven by a desire to transcend partisan rancor and petty politics in the service of the public good.

He would never let himself engage, he once pledged, in the “type of deceitful political trickery that has gone on in this state for much too long.”

But embarrassing revelations about his office’s role in shutting down some access lanes to the George Washington Bridge now imperil that carefully cultivated image. They suggest that the same elbows-out approach that the Christie administration brought to policy battles at the State House may have been deployed for a much less noble end-- punishing an entire borough for its mayor’s sin of not embracing the governor’s re-election campaign.For Mr. Christie, the timing of the blossoming scandal is dreadful, disrupting a highly anticipated plan to present the popular governor to the national electorate as a no-nonsense, bipartisan balm to a deeply divided federal government.

For Mr. Christie, the timing of the blossoming scandal is dreadful, disrupting a highly anticipated plan to present the popular governor to the national electorate as a no-nonsense, bipartisan balm to a deeply divided federal government.

…Despite Mr. Christie’s claims to the contrary, many saw an inescapable link to the temperamental governor, whose emotional outbursts at those who challenge him in public are a hallmark of his governing style.

Several leading conservatives, long suspicious of Mr. Christie’s allegiance to their cause, seemed eager to pounce. “The point of the story is that Christie will do payback,” Rush Limbaugh said on his popular conservative radio show. “If you don’t give him what he wants, he’ll pay you back.”

The episode is tricky for Mr. Christie and his aides. His cantankerous manner and independent streak are essential to his White House ambitions; advisers view them as an asset in early primary states like New Hampshire that have a history of embracing blunt-talking politicians.

Now there is a new worry: that what once seemed like a refreshing forcefulness may come off as misguided bullying.

“We like mavericks here,” said Thomas D. Rath, a longtime political strategist in New Hampshire. “But there is a line.” … The concept of a governor whose top aides mete out political revenge by triggering a giant traffic jam “could be a problem” for people in the state, said Mr. Rath, who has advised the Republican presidential campaigns of Bob Dole, George W. Bush and Mr. Romney.
Terry Golway, Director for History, Politics & Policy at Kean University in New Jersey penned an even more devastating piece reminding readers that, in essence Christie is nothing but another old-fashioned New Jersey boss.
Christie’s carefully crafted image as an anti-politician explains why a scandal involving traffic cones at the George Washington Bridge has become a potentially crippling handicap. His closest staff members and longtime friends have been revealed to be petty thugs who punished ordinary citizens to settle a political score. And while Christie has denied knowledge of the scheme to cause traffic havoc in the city of Fort Lee, questions are being raised about his administration’s aggressive methods of dealing with critics.

New Jersey has long been a place where politics is practised with brass knuckles. It is still home to a number of old-fashioned political bosses-- even after Christie put several behind bars. The most prominent boss still at large is a man named George Norcross, a Democrat who has worked co-operatively with Christie, a Republican, on several projects and who did little to oppose Christie’s re-election last year.

As governor, Christie has shown a weakness for the sort of autocratic boss-style politics that he seemed to despise during his career as a prosecutor. Even other Republicans have felt his wrath whenever they seemed insufficiently enthusiastic about his program or governing style. In the end, though, important reforms were passed into law during his first term after years of languishing in legislative committees. Sometimes it takes a boss to get the wheels of government working properly.

As the dominant political figure in New Jersey, Christie has no equal and no real rival. But voters have not objected to his my-way-or-the-highway approach to governance: he was re-elected in November with 60% of the vote. Still, it is one thing to force-feed legislation on recalcitrant politicians, and quite another to engage in political thuggery. Christie’s aides crossed that line, and now the governor’s presidential prospects are critically damaged.

Christie says he did not know of the plan to target Fort Lee’s mayor, and apologised for it in a press conference. But the plan itself reeks of prosecutorial zeal, a red-hot desire to punish a perceived wrong-doer. Christie’s aides have made a habit of posting videos of the governor assailing critics as if they were in the dock rather than simply questioning his policies. The bridge scandal may not bear the governor’s fingerprints, but critics have noted that he has been nothing if not aggressive with those who disagree with him.

New Jersey’s old-time political bosses were equally autocratic, but the best of them realised there was a time and a place in politics for compromise and negotiation. Prosecutors, however, live in a very different world. They deal with accused criminals. It is their job to prove that their adversary is guilty as charged. There is no room for debating the charge.

If Chris Christie is to recover, he must show that he does not regard critics as criminals, and that he understands that reasonable people can disagree in a reasonable fashion. That will require a radical change in style.
Right! That's not going to happen anytime soon. Christie, despite his performance today, has very little self-control. And, as Ezra Klein showed in this morning's Washington Post he's a low-grade and pathetic bully through and through. "Christie," he wrote, "inhabits a rare space in American politics: He's a bully. He's followed around by an aide with a camcorder watching for moments in which Christie, mustering the might and prestige of his office, annihilates some citizen who dares question him… The reason Chris Christie is so good at this is that Chris Christie is actually a bully. That doesn't mean he's not also a nice guy who cares deeply about his family and his constituents and his country. It doesn't mean he's not an unusually honest politician who's refreshingly free of cant and willing to question his party. There's a lot about Christie that's deeply appealing. But there's one big thing that's not: He's someone who uses his office to intimidate people and punish or humiliate perceived enemies… What makes Christie unusual is that he's a bully with power. That can be a dangerous combination."

John Banzhaf, a Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University Law School wrote today that there's more bad news for Christie around the corner: civil suits that are bound to uncover more information about what he and his team are covering up. "In addition to the political fallout, and any punishments for the aides who deliberately sabotaged traffic at the GW Bridge, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his aides could be sued by commuters for massive damages under a variety of legal theories-- a tactic which, even if it doesn't succeed in inflicting severe financial harm upon those responsible would, as least, help undercover more still-secret evidence about how the fiasco was organized, and any role Christie played in it." Remember, an elderly woman died when her ambulance couldn't get through Christie traffic blockade of the Bridge. "In addition, those who willfully caused the massive tie-ups could be sued for 'false imprisonment.' Deliberately engaging in an unlawful act for the purpose of forcing people to remain in one place for any significant period of time constitutes the civil tort of 'false imprisonment.' Indeed, many courts have held that intentionally preventing a car from moving can make the defendants liable not only for the actual damages suffered by a person detained (e.g. time lost from work, missed appointments or classes, etc.), but also for massive amounts of punitive damages designed to prevent a repetition of the unlawful conduct… Tort actions, and especially class action law suits, permit those who have been harmed by the wrongful actions taken by those acting in concert-- a civil conspiracy-- to sue everyone responsible, even if the wrongful deeds do not necessarily meet the more exactly standards of a criminal conspiracy," says Banzhaf, who helped develop novel legal theories to successfully sue cigarette manufacturers, fast food companies, soda bottlers, Spriro T. Agnew, and many others.

At least Staten Island Mafia figure and GOP congressman, Michael "Mikey Suits" Grimm is standing by his man. Grimm, a lowlife thug who is under investigation of a wide range of serious charges by the FBI and is likely to face far more prison time than Duke Cunningham or Bob Ney ever got, vouched for Christie a few hours ago:

“Governor Christie demonstrated true leadership and accountability during today’s press conference,” said Grimm. “I have known Governor Christie since he was a United States Attorney with a distinguished anti-corruption record and I was an undercover agent working a high profile public corruption case with his office. I know him to be a man of unquestionable honor and ironclad integrity, and I take him at his word. In an a time when President Obama and key figures in his administration shamelessly pass the buck and avoid accountability for one massive failure after another, the Governor’s swift and immediate action to dismiss those responsible, commit himself to a full vetting of his staff, and embrace his responsibility as his state’s chief executive is both uncommon and refreshing.”
And then there is this… pay close attention:

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