Sunday, January 12, 2014

Here's Hopin' That Governor BigBoy Has A Snakebite Kit Handy

Today, the NY Fishwrap's pair of poisonous vipers sink their fangs into the broad target of Governor BigBoy (R-NJ), this blogger saw a recent news video of BigBoy walking toward a questioner at a news conference and thought: "That ol' boy's hindquarters are 2-axe-handles wide. Both vipers offer us classic political snark. If this is a (fair & balanced) double-bite, so be it.

P.S. Helpful hint from the blogger: click on the bracketed numbers below to hop from one item to another; click on "Back To Directory" to return to the starting point. Thanks be to Vannevar Bush for giving us the idea of hypertext.

[Vannevar Bush HyperlinkBracketed NumbersDirectory]
[1] "Christie: Fire One," Thanks To Gail Collins (The Krait)
[2] "Christie: Fire Two," Thanks To Maureen Dowd (The Cobra)

[1]Back To Directory
[x NY Fishwrap]
Imagining President Christie
By Gail Collins (The Krait)

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Let us count the ways that this week’s traffic-jam scandal is actually good for Chris Christie’s presidential prospects.

First of all, he proved that he could definitely handle an international crisis that required apologizing when the United States did something really stupid. Like — let’s see. What if the secretary of commerce, in a fit of pique over a Chinese official’s refusal to endorse American seafood products, sent a flotilla of cargo planes to dump tons of surplus mackerel on a Beijing highway? President Christie would be terrific! He could apologize profusely while making it clear that his administration actually had nothing to do with the incident whatsoever and, in fact, was itself a pathetic victim of betrayal by a double agent for the fish industry.

And Christie has stamina! On Thursday, he held a press conference on the George Washington Bridge traffic-jam fiasco and talked for nearly two hours. The historian Michael Beschloss says he can’t think of any actual president who ever went on that long. It was even longer than the longest presidential Inaugural Address, which involved an hour and three-quarters of William Henry Harrison.

Of course, Harrison then died one month into office. But he did not have a personal trainer, and Chris Christie does. I must admit that I had a mixed reaction to the revelation about the trainer. Good for him on the healthy life front. But there really was something seductive about the idea of a chief executive without a physical fitness regimen. Four years bereft of jogging photo-ops or anecdotes from the pickup games in the White House gym.

Anyhow, there are lots of other ways that Christie’s press conference could be viewed as presidential.

For instance, Richard Nixon had “I am not a crook.” Chris Christie gave us “I am not a bully.”

Also, during Christie’s press conference, he referred to “mistakes” 18 times. He seemed to be channeling Ronald Reagan, who famously said “mistakes were made” after his administration got caught secretly helping arm rebels in Central America with money made from selling weapons to Iran.

O.K., that was a bigger mistake. Although having associates who create a four-day traffic jam on the world’s busiest bridge out of apparent political pique isn’t exactly a multiplication error.

Christie expressed confidence that the voters would conclude: “Mistakes were made; the governor had nothing to do with that, but he’s taking responsibility for it.” Here we have an echo of Harry Truman’s announcement that “the buck stops here.” However, Christie took the more modern approach, which is to make it clear that while you’re responsible, you are totally not at fault. The buck that stopped at Christie’s desk was not his buck, just an errant piece of currency that wound up in the office because of treacherous fools over whom he had no actual control whatsoever.

So far, so good.

Among the critical qualities for a modern president is the ability to instantly cut off old friends and cast them adrift if they become political baggage. Maybe you remember the way Bill Clinton dumped his law school pal Lani Guinier when her nomination to lead the Justice Department’s civil rights division ran into trouble.

Or maybe you have no memory of that whatsoever. It doesn’t matter, because Christie’s example is much better.

The central figure in the traffic-jam scandal is a guy named David Wildstein, who is frequently described as a youthful chum of the governor’s. The two were at high school together, and Wildstein later became mayor of Christie’s hometown.

Asked about Wildstein — who spent Thursday pleading the Fifth at a legislative hearing — Christie expressed joy at having the opportunity to clear up the true parameters of their relationship. “David and I were not friends in high school.... We didn’t travel in the same circles in high school,” he said coolly. “You know, I was the class president and athlete. I don’t know what David was doing during that period of time.”


The most fascinating part of the governor’s talkathon was his explanation of what he did when he discovered — just as he was toweling down from a workout — that his deputy chief of staff had been involved in creating the bridge crisis.

Christie claimed he swiftly axed said aide, wasting no time in attempting to find out why she had done it, who she had conspired with, or why she imagined he would think it was a good idea.

“I’m telling you that when I ask for an answer from a member of my staff and they lie... they’re gone. So I never had to get to the conduct, the underlying conduct,” he said.

What do you think about that, people? Andrew Jackson-like decisiveness? Seems more like a really eerie lack of curiosity.

But then we have had presidents who were less inquisitive than a sidewalk. Look at George W. Bush. And he got elected twice.

[Gail Collins joined the New York Times in 1995 as a member of the editorial board and later as an op-ed columnist. In 2001 she became the first woman ever appointed editor of the Times editorial page. At the beginning of 2007, she took a leave in order to complete America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates and Heroines. Collins returned to the Times as a columnist in July 2007. Collins has a BA (journalism) from Marquette University and an MA (government) from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Gail Collins’s newest book is As Texas Goes...: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda (2012).]

[2]Back To Directory
[x NY Fishwrap]
Thunder Road
By Maureen Dowd (The Cobra)

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I have learned two things covering politics.

One, first impressions are often right. John Edwards is slick. Hillary Clinton is expedient. W. was in over his head. Barack Obama is too much in his head. Chris Christie can be a bully.

Politicians are surrounded by spinners who work tirelessly to shape our perceptions of the characters of their bosses. Pols know how to polish scratches in their image with sin-and-redemption news conferences, TV confessionals and self-deprecating turns at hoary Washington press banquets. As Carter spokesman Jody Powell joked, if Hitler and Eva Braun came on stage at the Gridiron Dinner and mocked themselves in a song-and-dance routine, Washington chatterers would say, “Oh, they’re not so bad.”

After being showered with spin, you say to yourself, maybe that first impression was wrong. But often it isn’t.

Christie’s two-hour “I am not a bully” news conference was operatic about an act of malice so petty it did not merit being called “authentic Jersey corruption,” as New Jersey native Jon Stewart said, adding that it was unworthy of a state with a severed horse head on its flag.

If you’re going to wage a vendetta, at least make it a well-thought-out one. How can Christie & Co. run a national campaign when they can’t even aim straight? How moronic to think the mayor of Fort Lee would get blamed for problems on a bridge that everyone knows is controlled by the Port Authority. If you want to be malicious, it would be so easy to put a project close to the mayor’s heart on hold for a few months or redirect 60 state snowplows the night before a storm.

The governor groveled to New Jersey residents after his aides so gleefully burned them (even joking about children being late for the first day of school because of the orchestrated gridlock on the George Washington Bridge).

After zapping Obama for being so clueless that he couldn’t find “the light switch of leadership” in a dark room, Christie is trying to salvage his once blazing career by claiming he was in a dark room, clueless to the bogus traffic study masking a revenge plan that top aides were executing in plain sight.

The epic news conference felt like a scene out of the governor’s favorite movie, “The Godfather”: Christie offering his tremulous, grandiose, self-pitying public apologia while in cross-cut scenes, his henchmen were getting rid of those who threatened his operation.

Calling his deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly “stupid” and “deceitful,” he threw her off the bridge, without talking to her himself or, as Niall O’Dowd slyly wrote in, even extending the courtesy of the old Irish wedding night admonition: “Brace yourself, Bridget.”

He also disappeared his two-time campaign manager, Bill Stepien. His cronies at the Port Authority, Bill Baroni and David Wildstein, fell on their swords last month.

Christie took a line straight out of the Robert DeNiro handbook, lamenting: “I am heartbroken that someone who I permitted to be in that circle of trust for the last five years betrayed my trust.”

Yet we know workplaces are chameleon-like. I once had a publisher who loved the Audubon Society, so we ran a lot of bird stories. I had another boss who wore suspenders, so guys in the office started wearing suspenders.

Shades of Watergate: Since they were headed toward a landslide, you’d think the Christie crew would have been in a more benevolent mood. But given the governor’s past flashes of vindictive behavior, this was probably a wink-wink, nod-nod deal. Question: Who will rid me of this meddlesome mayor? Answer: The “little Serbian” has been dealt with.

The second thing I’ve learned from covering politics is that we can debate ad nauseam whether Christie was telling the truth, shading it or bluffing. But we can’t gauge that from his impressive, marathon Trenton performance art.

No matter how jaded we feel in the news business, we are still suckers for the big lie. It’s tough to wrap your head around a stunning level of duplicity.

I learned this lesson the hard way covering Paul Tsongas’s presidential surge in 1992. When The Times’s Dr. Larry Altman came on the campaign trail to interview Tsongas, he was skeptical about the candidate’s claim that his lymphoma had not recurred. I told Altman it was impossible for me to believe that Tsongas, who prided himself on his honesty and who was so straightforward he was mocked as “Saint Paul” by Clinton aides, could lie about that — especially given the profound political consequences.

Dr. Altman was right, as Tsongas later admitted. The candidate and his doctors at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston repeatedly said he was cancer-free when he was not.

A cascade of subsequent outraged denials about transgressive behavior delivered with bravado and finger wagging, from Gary Hart to Bill Clinton to John Edwards to Anthony Weiner, has persuaded me that politicians — who are narcissists and, in essence, actors stuck in the same role — can persuasively tell the big lie if they believe their futures are on the line.

The Christie saga is still unraveling. Maybe he was a dupe in the dark. Maybe the man in the fleece jacket is fleecing us. Let’s just say, I’m not yet permitting him in my circle of trust. Ω

[Maureen Dowd received the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1999, with the Pulitzer committee particularly citing her columns on the impeachment of Bill Clinton after his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Dowd joined The New York Times as a reporter in 1983, after writing for Time magazine and the now-defunct Washington Star. At The Times, Dowd was nominated for a 1992 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, then became a columnist for the paper's editorial page in 1995. Dowd's first book was a collection of columns entitled Bushworld: Enter at Your Own Risk (2004). Her second book followed in 2005: Are Men Necessary?: When Sexes Collide. Dowd earned a bachelor's degree from DC's Catholic University in 1973.]

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1 comment:

  1. A fantastic blog with a lot of useful information. I would love to get updates from you. Keep blogging. All the best.


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