Political bullies

New Jersey governor Chris Christie is in trouble. You can read the full saga here but basically it is an ugly story of bullying, pettiness, and vindictiveness.

The short story of what happened is that the Democratic mayor of a small town in New Jersey called Fort Lee had declined to endorse Republican Christie in his re-election campaign for governor. Then suddenly last September lanes were closed on the George Washington Bridge for four consecutive days. This bridge connects Fort Lee to New York City and is the most heavily trafficked bridge in the US and the lane closures caused massive traffic jams of up to four hours and hampered the activities of emergency vehicles. The lanes were ordered closed by the state’s Port Authority that is under the control of the governor, ostensibly for the purposes of a ‘traffic study’ that turned out to be non-existent. Christie ridiculed the idea that this was done to punish the mayor but yesterday emails surfaced showing that his deputy chief of state Bridget Kelly and a Port Authority executive conniving to do just that. The executive resigned over the issue earlier.

What I want to focus on are some other issues. One is the sheer pettiness of the whole thing. Are these guys still in middle school? Who would think of pointlessly inconveniencing and even endangering millions of people just out of spite? The combination of a middle school mentality combined with the power to do real damage is dangerous.

But Christie clearly has the personality of a bully. He apparently deliberately looks for opportunities to tear into hapless citizens in public forums (like public school teachers) and has his entourage videotape his tirades against them and post them on YouTube for his adoring fans to savor his ‘toughness’. And some in the media too seems to fawn over such atrocious behavior instead of recoiling with disgust.

Like all bullies, Christie is also a coward. When news reports emerged yesterday showing the complicity of his office, the politician who loves the media spotlight cancelled his only public appearance and went into hiding. Today, Christie emerged and, like all bullies, blamed everyone else and fired Kelly and demoted his former campaign manager, presumably hoping that the public will accept his sacrificial lambs. Oddly enough, he said today that has not spoken with Kelly since the emails emerged. Surely the obvious thing would be to ask for an explanation?

I hate people in authority like Christie who, in the famous words describing John Bolton, like to “kiss up and kick down”. You should treat everyone with respect and dignity and never, ever, disrespect those over whom you have any power and who cannot respond in kind. The more power you have over others, the less visible and salient it should be.


  1. says

    The more power you have over others, the less visible and salient it should be.

    I make a distinction between leadership and power. Power is authority that can be wielded without being attached to a situation, whereas leadership is situational. For example, if we were in a crowded theater and there was a fire, leadership would be organizing an escape, whereas power would be compelling people to follow your escape plan. The authoritarian blurs these things in their mind because they conflate the interest of the group with their self-interest. I actually see very few situations in which power needs to be vested in anyone in particular; in fact I conclude that the only value power has, is if someone plans to abuse it therefore anyone who wants power over others (especially me!) is my enemy.

  2. Matt G says

    I’m wondering how Kelly will respond. Will she let Christie throw her under the bus? What will happen to her career? She clearly bears a huge amount of responsibility, but did this come from her, or did the Big Man order it?

  3. TxSkeptic says

    Rachel Maddow developed a new theory on the motivation for the Fort Lee debacle. On her show last night, she presented a good case that it was related to New Jersey Supreme Court nominations and the political problems that have been swirling around it.
    It’s a compelling argument in my opinion. Go watch for yourself.



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