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State, national columnists

Please, no bullies in bully pulpit

By From page A11 | January 15, 2014

Maybe there’s a way to give New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie a pass on what some are calling “Bridgegate,” but it won’t be easy.

His staff’s transgression was serious. Some might dismiss the four days of traffic havoc in Fort Lee, N.J., as petty political hijinks, but they didn’t seem that way to the citizens who were caught in the snarl caused by the closure of several toll lanes leading onto the George Washington Bridge.

This was much more than a trivial, annoying inconvenience. Clogged streets slow down emergency responders, and children marooned on school buses is a recipe for disaster. Let’s face it: when public resources are used in any way to settle a petty political score, well, it doesn’t get much worse than that.

In his news conference Thursday, Christie said that he was saddened and humiliated by the event, that two of the perpetrators had been fired, and that, in the tradition of all political apologizers, the buck stops with him and so on. I’m inclined to take Christie’s contrition more or less at face value, but others have pointed out that, despite his apologies, the nearly two-hour news conference was narcissistically focused on his own feelings of humiliation, sadness and betrayal.

Amid his avowals of deep sadness over the episode, anger and irritation didn’t seem too far below the surface. Neither did a hint of denial and rationalization: Maybe there really was a “traffic study” somehow connected with the lane closings, he said hopefully. All of this looks bad. Nevertheless, later on National Public Radio, Republican strategist Mike Murphy said that the episode would not be “fatal” to Christie’s presidential aspirations.

But shouldn’t it be? At best, Christie was naive about the “circle of trust” with which he had surrounded himself, which should call his managerial competence and judgment into question.

But the real problem is that Christie has taken pains to cultivate his brand as a straight-talking, hardball-playing, no-holds-barred tough guy. This persona, which I suspect is not an act, appeals to some voters who are attracted to a candidate who “tells it like it is.” But even if Christie is as innocent of his staff’s blunder as he presented himself to be, is this the personality and temperament that we want in a president? Political philosophy aside, often this sort of tough-talking bluster is mere cover for a lack of real ideas and solutions. Modern problems and politics are complicated and subtle, and they won’t be resolved by a quick retreat into hard-nosed, bombastic certainty.

Furthermore, Christie’s bluntness may play well in New Jersey and in much of the United States, but it’s entirely unsuitable for confronting international issues.

From 1907 to 1909, President Theodore Roosevelt sent 16 battleships and attendant vessels, the “Great White Fleet,” on a global circumnavigation intended, in part, as an in-your-face demonstration of America’s new naval power, a public assertion of the consequences that other nations would face if they interfered with the United States.

Given the century of war that followed, this voyage may or may not have been a good idea, but at the time Roosevelt could get away with throwing America’s weight around publicly.

Things have changed. The powder keg is much bigger and more explosive, and caution, deliberation and diplomacy are called for. Modern nations – China, Iran, even our Western European allies – will not respond to Christie’s bluntness or to his natural instinct toward sarcasm and condescension, nor to someone who, as Christie revealed last week, refuses to hide his emotions.

Roosevelt famously said the presidency is a “bully pulpit,” using the term in a much different sense than Christie did last week. But if you have to say “I am not a bully,” well, you just might be a bully. Fine, but you cannot also be president.

John M. Crisp teaches in the English Department at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas. Readers may send him email at [email protected].

John M. Crisp


Discussion | 15 comments

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  • CD BrooksJanuary 14, 2014 - 7:12 am

    What's funny here is even without this debacle, or whether Christie was even involved means zero in the scope of his electability it just wasn't going to happen. He handled the Sandy crisis well, and IMO was genuinely humbled when Obama came through. That was a "moment" for him, one he could have used as a stepping stone. But alas, another one bites the dust. If you think this is going away, you don't know politics.

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  • DanielJanuary 15, 2014 - 2:33 am

    How did the bully Obama or the serial sexual predator Clinton and his corrupt wife ever get elected even for dog catcher? The lame stream and the growing number of low information voters like CD who become hysterical over NJ traffic instead of breeches by the executive office and the ruining of healthcare.

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  • rlw895January 15, 2014 - 3:41 am

    Pornac, is that you? CD is not low information. The rest is equally incredible.

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  • CD BrooksJanuary 15, 2014 - 6:40 am

    Daniel, I don't "do" hysterical. I'd invite you to become a Democrat but you're so contaminated there simply is no hope. Good luck finding your way Daniel.

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  • DanielJanuary 15, 2014 - 9:14 am

    CD even the station that you depend on all your inforamtion to parrot, MSNBC, is reporting today that Al Queda has killed 15 Benghazi informants. Do you still say that your Youtube video president is not involved in a scandal or sheer mass incompetance? N.J. traffic is that more important to you than a president getting his facts straight involving American and now 15 more deaths? Are you that petty and shallow man?

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  • StRJanuary 15, 2014 - 7:41 am

    No good conservative would want Christy for President....Once again I am telling you that the Rothschilds/... Rockefellers/.....City of London Bankers, that control the Federal Reserve and most all the Central Banks of all the countries in the world/.....Bilderbergs-Corporate elit/.......Buffett/Bill Gates/Bushes/Clintons/.....Royal Institute of International Affairs/....High ranking top Intelligence officials in the CIA, FBI, MI5&6, Mossad, the Israeli lobby ( after all the Globalists had these agencies help kill Kennedy or keep it quiet)/...Masons at the top/...CFR, Trilateral Commission/....JASON Group...ect ect ect......The THEY that you sometimes hear mentioned that control the world....THEY pick both of the candidates....Hillary Klingon and Christy ( they were testing the waters here)....THEY were looking for someone Hillary could easily defeat.....It is all a game voters, we have no real choice, it is all rigged.....Democrat/Republican same same........and remember the Banking Powers also control the THEY in China as far as I can tell.

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  • http://www.c4cg.org/republic.htmJanuary 15, 2014 - 7:48 am

    A Republic vs A Democracy...Check out the link...or in general Google....representative republic.......The manuals containing these definitions were ordered destroyed without explanation about the same time that President Franklin D. Roosevelt made private ownership of our lawful money (US Minted Gold Coins) illegal. Shortly after the people turned in their $20 gold coins, the price was increased from $20 per ounce to $35 per ounce. Almost overnight F.D.R., the most popular president this century (elected 4 times) looted almost half of this nation's wealth, while convincing the people that it was for their own good. Many of F.D.R.'s policies were suggested by his right hand man, Harry Hopkins, who said, .......................... "Tax and Tax, Spend and Spend, Elect and Elect, because the people are too damn dumb to know the difference".

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  • StR.....This Country is suppose to be A Representative RepublicJanuary 15, 2014 - 8:06 am

    But we voters often time have no real choice if both parties Democrat and Republican are secretly working for, or manipulated by THEY the Global power structure....We can only stop this by electing the proper Government Representatives....And how do the elections take place?...State by State through the Deomcrat and Republican political power structure in that state, which is subordinate to the Federal Party Dem/Repub Power Structure.....I urge all people that know that 9/11 was an inside job on the Republican watch, with the help of the top Democrats ( both parties are in on the False Flag known as 9/11 ) on both sides Democrat and Republican to get active in your county and state political power structures......Do not immediately announce that you are a 9/11 truther, do not immdediately announce that you know our Federal Reserve is a fully owned subsidiary ( through control mechanisms ) of the Rothschild/...City of London/...World Bank/....IMF, International Monetary Fund/...BIS, Bank of International Settlements Globalists.....attend the central committees of both parties for awhile and observe, get your bearings and then try to educate these people on the committees, it will be rough but somebody HAS TO DO IT.....let it be you.....PS...Do not also announce that you know our brave men and women of the military services are just used as pawns by the Globalist bankers in every country, and that we should be able to come up with a peaceful solution to the world's hunger for oil...no more wars for oil.and Globalist One World New World Order country consolidations......see we can still be conservative or liberal and work out compromises after we get the above problems solved....also beware any organization whose mission seems to entirely concentrate on demonizing the other side, but join if you want to try to change their thinking.

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  • StR....and remember our Republic was....January 15, 2014 - 8:25 am

    Built on the Constitution and Bill of Rights ( although it can be argued that the Constitution has it's flaws in places ) increasingly Government is Centralized at the Federal and Executive Levels....Congress does not even read all of the Bills they vote on, Corporate Lobbists and Think Tanks write the Legislation....The Supreme Court is packed with evil people... Our Individual Freedoms and the abilities of Individual States to carry out the wishes of their citizens is jeopardized, by the carrot on a stick of Federal Government money and even threats of military retaliation against individual states...To stay a free society we must uphold the Constitution and Bill of Rights against the power ( which we have let them take ) of the Federal Government.....The last good example of this was the Vietnam war protests.....See now the Globalists can "Draft" the unknowing pawns of the Chinese army and all the brainwashed radical Moslem sects THEY have created in the Middle East to set us up once again to fight each other worldwide.

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  • Rita GoldenJanuary 15, 2014 - 11:12 am

    StR, You are so correct in all you said here. It's the Illuminati and it's puppets. People need to wake up and realize what is going on in this world. Sticking one's head in the sand does not make reality go away. Enough said.

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  • CD BrooksJanuary 15, 2014 - 12:08 pm

    Rita, for real? You didn't know that god and the illuminati are the same person? SHEESH!

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  • Puddin TaneJanuary 15, 2014 - 2:57 pm

    Aw, like two peas in a conspiracy theory believing pod! CD & Rlw, if we're lucky they'll stop spamming the message boards with Alex Jones plugs and send them to one another instead. I find the whole "God vs Illuminati" narrative interesting though, as it implies that humanity can make an omnipotent deity feel threatened. Of course, if that narrative is true, then wouldn't it imply that God isn't all-powerful? And if God isn't all powerful, then why worship? These are questions for people with more time and inclination than I to discuss, with the key being "inclination", as I don't care about nonexistent deities or the nonexistent organizations aligned to oppose them.

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  • CD BrooksJanuary 15, 2014 - 3:05 pm

    PT, you messed up here. Rlw895 and me don't send the Fat little moron stuff. Ever. But your anti-god vision is uncanny. ;) Nice!

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  • StRJanuary 15, 2014 - 4:42 pm

    I think the whole situation has something the do with the Creation of Free Choice/Will.....and if there is Free Choice/Will there also has to be the option of choosing to be evil...in some cases very evil. These very same thoughts have bothered me also....Life is not fair.....and Life is an admittance test?.....I am not even sure if the Bible says that God cannot make a mistake?.....What if for some reason God purposely make a mistake?....The Bible says that God despaired that he had ever made man.....But from my point of view the Whole Bible thing is true and we appear to be entering the last days...Which really if you think about it is what lots of people in Communist Countries and starving people in third world countries have gone through for years already...and also for each one of us, we as an individual could die a minute from now, and essentially you are your own universe because you are a uniquely created being......Anyway a person does want to argue with God over why so much suffering, but in The End, who are we to question God? Much of the suffering comes from people willing to give themselves over to evil. I tell myself that even if tortured for I think they have determined that under pretty extreme torture they can keep you alive for 11 to 13 months? ( for example there are special Heart Enzymes they can shoot you up with to keep your Heart from failing under torture )....What is this compared to eternity?....I would not want to end up, where you guys are probably going to do your time.

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  • PornacJanuary 15, 2014 - 7:50 am

    Me, low information? Be all you can be, Pornac Strong.

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