"a cocksure, conceited, and often insolent person"
What’s a New Jersey Governor to do when not some distant bureaucrats, but some very close associates execute a political scam? Well, you hold a marathon press-conference, and using every bit of your well-trained lawyerly skills, you fire people and take responsibility. What else can you do?
So, the Governor, who cunningly cultivates a wise guy persona that his base finds so appealing, didn’t know anything. His hand-picked deputy chief of staff (Bridget Kelly) apparently woke up one fine morning in September and communicated her kooky brainstorm of an idea to block traffic at the Fort Lee entrance to the George Washington Bridge to another hand-picked political appointee and former Christie school mate (David Wildstein). The kooky idea and its political/traffic-snarling implications were further conveyed to Christie’s campaign manager (Bill Stepien), and together this troika of wise guy wannabes gleefully gloated via email about the mischief they had created. They “got it” about how public power and assets can be used as political retribution, and as a means of endangering lives, and disrupting the school bus schedules of children whose parents, after all, had “voted for Buono,” (the Governor’s recent gubernatorial opponent). When a wise guy begets a wise guy culture that begets wise guy personnel, how surprised should we be when they actually act like wise guys?
I grew up on the NY side of the Hudson, spent weekends with my Aunt and Uncle at Horizon House in Fort Lee, and even hiked the Palisades north of the Bridge as a 10 year-old. Like me, Christie is half Italian and Irish, and I get guys like him - they get a little education, a little money, more than a little power, and then fancy themselves straight-talkers, and men of action who brook little nonsense from their usually liberal political rivals. Classy they necessarily are not, unless bullying (and that’s what it is) teachers, union members, little old ladies, reporters, and other non-wise guy types, preferably in the presence of microphones and news cameras, is your idea of class.
A jokester is what Christie is, what with his dodging traffic, “manning the cones,” and his cavalier dismissal, as late as December, of any knowledge of anything. Weeks ago, most of us were learning about the false nature of the so-called “traffic safety study,” which was offered as the official rationale for the lane closures, but Christie never even bothered to pick up his phone to verify the existence of the study, so intent was he on getting to the bottom of things, and he claims to have only learned about its fictional nature, yesterday.
None of us knows what Chris Christie knew, and when he knew it, but what we do know about him are his judgment and his values. These were revealed to us in the choices he made about staff and appointees who went on to become the brains and executors of the Fort Lee get-back scheme. We also know that for a big man, Governor Christie is an awfully small man, and nobody knows this better than perhaps the “little Serbian” from Fort Lee.