When a Republican isn’t assailable on any other front, Save Jerseyans, antagonistic liberals will invariably accuse them of being stupid. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush laughed all the way to the ballot box. Gerry Ford almost did, too, but the bad aftertaste of Watergate was a little tougher to overcome.
Chris Christie is maturing politically in a very different time than the 1980s, and the culture has changed dramatically. These days, the worst thing you can be in the eyes of many voters is a bully. So the NYT’s Jersey correspondence Kate Zernike dropped a meaty piece on Christmas Eve declaring that evidence of a Christie bullying streak was “adding up.” Whatever that means.
His detractors have come to learn, much to their dismay, that no one cares when the Republican Governor dresses-down a public sector union flunky at a town hall meeting. Zernike’s piece tries to personalize the bullying charge by citing the cases of (1) John “Dune Buster” McKeon, (2) the late Alan “Continuity of Representation” Rosenthal, (3) Bridgegate, and (4) a number of nameless, faceless sources who wouldn’t go on record.
Character witnesses #1 and #2 are familiar to Save Jersey readers. The former is a hyper-partisan Democrat legislator; the latter was a known Democrat hack who threw the legislative redistricting process for the Dems. I’m not saying they’re lying. I’m simply stating that you need to consider their allies’ contentions in that light.
The Bridgegate case is slightly more substantial but not by much. Forget for a moment who know what when for however long and in whatever form. Etc. and so on. I’ve yet to hear someone convincingly explain how temporary lane closures on a state highway would affect a mayor’s political prospects with local voters…?
And finally, nameless and faceless sources are always suspect because you can’t interrogate or evaluate the credibility of a shadow, folks, but that doesn’t discount the presence of some truth behind the chatter. The Christie-led New Jersey Republican Party boasts a centralized command structure, a penchant for control bordering on obsessive and, more to the point, a reputation for punishing disloyalty with impunity. The Kean v. O’Toole Senate battle was a recent, unusually-visible example.
Critics have accused Christie of being heavy-handed. Supporters say it’s the key to his success.
My retort: for good or ill, how does any of that make Chris Christie materially different from most other successful politicians? Or any of the other machines that have dominated tri-state politics since there’s been three states to cover?
Not rationalizing. Just sayin’…
In related news, the Times editors announced today that they’ve assigned Michael Barbaro (who covered Michael Bloomberg’s leadership of NYC) to the Christie beat going forward. We’ll be looking forward to that.