Sunday, January 12, 2014

Why Christie's Unconvincing Victimhood Won't Matter Where It Counts

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is not the first bully to make a name for himself in politics, but then our memories are awfully short.  After all, we already have forgotten revelations during the 2012 presidential campaign of Mitt Romney's star turn as a gay-bashing high school bully.  And face it, Dick and Liz Cheney are so passé.

I happen to think that Christie is a narcissistic egomaniac, but will emerge relatively unscathed from the Scandal of the Moment.  This despite the probability that once the emails between deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly and other staffers, which were heavily redacted before being released in conjunction with Christie's Mea Culpa Tour last week, are released in full, they will show the governor was well aware of if didn't actually help engineer one of the more breathtakingly vindictive political paybacks in memory: Plunging the George Washington Bridge approach at Fort Lee, New Jersey -- one of the nation's busiest bridges and the key car-and-truck link between New Jersey and New York City -- into four days of gridlock.

So why do I think that Christie will, in Jersey street parlance, get a slide despite his unconvincing efforts to portray himself as the victim (his variation on Richard Nixon's "I am not a crook" defense was a real howler), the likelihood of criminal charges being filed against some of his aides, and the drip-drip-drip of revelations about Christie's numerous other forays into retributive justice, as one pundit called it?

Because 2016, when Christie will make a run for the Republican presidential nomination, is as distant as Alpha Centauri, or for that matter Romney's 1965 exploits, in our 24/7 news cycle world.  Besides which, bullying -- as exemplified by right-wing demagogues like Rush Limbaugh -- has become so much background noise in our toxic, hyper-partisan environment.  Bullying is the new normal, as it were, and it will matter little that the pugilistic governor didn't come clean all at once, which is likely the case, than allow the cover-up become bigger than the crime, because the media will soon move on to fresh outrages.

Finally, the Republican Party desperately needs Christie.

I continue to believe that while Teahadists are powerful beyond their numbers, they have painted the party into an ideological corner that pretty much guarantees increasing national irrelevance.  A Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum or Ted Cruz has zero chance of beating Hillary Clinton.  GOP donors, primarily those on Wall Street who lack the fascist tendencies of the Koch Brothers, will shower Christie with money, and maybe -- just maybe -- the lessons not learned from Romney's 2012 thrashing will sink in.

While the stars might have to be aligned just so for Christie to get the Republican nomination, only he is capable of giving Clinton a run for her money.  This is because many of the policies and points of view the governor espouses are in sync with voters in general, if not right-wing Republicans, including those all-important Independent women.  These include gun control, immigration reform, Medicaid expansion, gay rights and, yes, good old fashioned compromising.
Why do so many Republican officials today use their power to hurt people?

Surprisingly, I have yet to read of anyone making a connection between the GW Bridge gridlock in early September and the shutdown of the federal government from October 1-16, although much talked about and anticipated as Christie's elves carried out their dirty work, which among other things slowed emergency responses and may or may not have resulted in a death, as well as making tens of thousands of people late for work and school.
And as sleazy as New Jersey politics are historically -- the Sopranos . . . er, Garden State is perhaps the most corrupt; yes, even more corrupt than Louisiana -- political paybacks usually take the form of envelopes stuffed with cash, not outright thuggery.
It's sick.

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