Thursday, January 9, 2014

Convenient Ignorance

John Kennedy once said that military victory has many fathers but defeat is an orphan.

I think much the same thing is true for monkey shines committed by a politician's staffers.

Great ideas and policies have many fathers, but scandals are orphaned.

Take New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Please.

The Republican governor and possible presidential hopeful for 2016 has a scandal on his hands. People are getting fired.

It's all about what I will call, TrafficGate.

Seems that members of Christie's staff---in very high places---ordered highway lane closures back in September that severely hamstrung the residents and commuters of Fort Lee, apparently as retribution for Fort Lee's mayor not supporting Christie's re-election bid.

The governor has fired Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly, for lying to Christie about her---and, by extension, the administration's---involvement in ordering the closures, which created hellacious traffic jams, mainly because they first occurred the day kids went back to school after Labor Day.

"Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," Kelly said in an e-mail to David Wildstein, a top Christie appointee on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Kelly initially told Christie that the administration had nothing to do with ordering the lane closures, which was falsely attributed to a fictitious traffic study.

But the the e-mails saw the light of day and the picture they painted wasn't pretty.

Kudos to Christie for axing Kelly, but the governor played the old, "My staff did WHAT?" card, and portrayed himself as being lied to and betrayed.

Now, this may indeed be the case. Christie's people may have acted in a sort of rogue manner, their boss unaware of their sleazy tactics.

But I find it bemusing that political leaders seem to be in the loop and on top of all the good stuff going on in their administration, but they are always so clue-free when naughty things happen.

The tact of throwing your staff under the bus when the heat gets turned up is hardly new in the world of politics. Given the choice, the leader under fire would, apparently, rather look like a misled, ill-informed dunderhead than a Richard Nixon type.

So Christie is pleading ignorance, because as bad as that is, it's still preferable to evil mastermind---especially when you have eyes on the White House in two years' time.



No doubt TrafficGate will be dusted off and presented to the American people ad nauseam, should Christie decide to get involved in running for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016. And, frankly, it should.

Because whether Christie was in on it or not, the petty, punitive lane closures not only inconvenienced gobs of folks, it even created some health and safety issues that are unconscionable.

And that stuff came from Christie's office, whether the boss knew about it or not, and when you're running for president, that can't be a good thing.

Clearly, the American people don't want someone in the White House who is capable of such pettiness and bullying, especially when that pettiness and bullying struck at the heart of innocent, tax paying Americans who were just trying to get to work and their kids to school. Apparently EMT vehicles and other emergency response vehicles were negatively affected by the man-made traffic jams as well.

But nor do voters want to elect as president someone who doesn't have a better handle of his gubernatorial staff than this.

I'd say Governor Christie has himself in a lose/lose situation here.

Firing Kelly is a start toward political recovery, but Christie can only fire so many people before voters---and the media---will demand to know what the governor knew and, more importantly, what he didn't know.

And why he didn't know it.

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