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In defense of my defense of Chris Christie

daly-news-chris-christie.jpgCoffee Party contributors have praised New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in the past, and we had refrained from comment on the bridge closing scandal until Wednesday's release of internal emails implicating high level appointees in the Christie administration. For one thing, it was all speculative, and for another, I don't much care for the kind of partisanship that requires Democratic-leaning bloggers to leap at every chance to attack the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination. For these reasons, I asked our most liberal contributors not to use our powerful Facebook page to add fuel to this controversy. 

But, on Thursday morning, I posted this status update myself:

Whether w/ traffic snarls or long lines on Election Day, it is an ugly abuse of power to punish people who (may) vote against you

The Facebook status also included this quote from Maggie Haberman's even-handed article in Politico:

"Text messages and emails sent and received by [New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's] longtime friend, David Wildstein, one of two Port Authority officials to leave their jobs over the scandal, showed people reveling in the misery of the people affected by the traffic jams. The kids stuck in traffic on school buses because of the lane closures, he wrote in one message, were 'children of Buono voters' — a reference to Christie’s Democratic opponent in the governor’s race, Democrat Barbara Buono."

Although some would object to the term "moderate," I consider Christie to be a fact-based and reasonable Republican who is willing to work with Democrats, even President Barack Obama if necessary, in order to fulfill his sworn duty as an elected official. Whatever your political affiliation, you have to agree that America needs more Republicans like that. And, when considering what sort of Republican presidential candidate would be best for America in 2016, a candidate who would take back the microphone from a viciously misinformed bigot (as John McCain did in 2008) would be better than one who apes and panders to bigots, or, one who is a bigot him or herself. 

Not long ago, these qualities would not have been considered unusual, or even worthy of praise. Fulfilling one's sworn duty to serve the public was, during previous eras of American history, a higher calling than partisanship, media-induced controversies, and the desire to profit by holding office. Courage and integrity in the face of bigotry was, although never commonplace, demonstrated in both political parties, for instance, during the Civil Rights movement, such that no one would say "wow, he supported voting rights and he's a Republican?" But that has not been the case in recent years.

I'm coming to realize now that my affinity for Chris Christie had in it a fatal flaw. The quality I liked most about him was that he would be tough on the TEA Party, that he wouldn't back down, that he might even show them who's boss once in a while and reclaim the Republican party for fact-based, principled conservatives. But the same boldness that allows Christie to break the unwritten rules in the Republican party and stand up to extremism might ALSO be directed at the people I care about the most: the voters. There is nothing more ugly in American politics than abuse of power, and among abuses of power, there is only one abuse that is more heinous than abuse of power for political vendetta. And that would be abuse of power to punish, not one's political opponent, but those who are likely to vote for one's political opponent. So, Wednesday's release of an electronic message that takes even this one step further, celebrating the suffering of the CHILDREN of people who might vote for one's opponent —well, that nearly made me throw up.

Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to Chris Christie for that symbolic hug. After four years of political organizing by the Republican party divorced from any interest in serving the public, divorced from any honest policy debate, and based almost entirely on the foolishness you can get away with by trading on the unusual name and unprecedented ethnicity of America's 44th president — it was more than refreshing, it was healing to see Gov. Christie embrace President Obama. Not only did he hug the man, he did not apologize for it, he did not shrink in the face of the right wing media empire, he did not get chased out of the Republican party. Instead, he looked right into the eyes of those who consume hate-based political media products, and those who create them and said: "You don't like it? Tough!"

This was meaningful for people like me, people who are of mixed ancestry or from mixed families, people who are African American, people who embrace the America we are becoming, and wish desperately to see us become that America SOON, so we can meet the challenges we face together rather than divided. Some may not have admitted it, but after all of that hatred, a hug, a simple hug, well, that was pretty nice.

This in itself is a sad commentary on the state of political discourse in the age of the TEA Party backlash against recent election results. It's a form of Stockholm Syndrome, I suppose. But Chris Christie was (and is) the best hope for bringing the Republican party back to the process of governing for the common good. I say "is" in parenthesis because I don't believe this scandal will be fatal to his political career, at least not based on the information that has come out thus far. If Fox News and the rest of the GOP establishment decides that Gov. Christie is the candidate with the best chance to win in 2016, they will find a way for him to win the nomination. 

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Showing 10 reactions

commented 2014-01-18 12:39:34 -0500 · Flag
Well done Bob! (yes, that was full of both facetiousness and sadness)
commented 2014-01-12 13:27:43 -0500 · Flag
Bob, Backroom dealing and other deceitful practices have become a way of life in modern politiics. And in fact, the biggest backroom deal in US history has been a bipartisan effort, started by George Bush and continued by President Obama. It’s called the TPP. It’s younger brother, NAFTA was the sole perview of a Democrat, Mr. Clinton. Transpartisanship demands intellectual honesty. When one calls out their political opposites for a particular practice that their side routinely employs is NOT intellectually honest. I’m glad you applaud transpartisanship Bob. I’d much rather see you employ it. Please name one Tea Partier or Republican you think is worthy of your vote and why.
commented 2014-01-12 08:48:34 -0500 · Flag
Dan & Eric-
I applaud transparttisanship, civil discourse & celebrate compromise & common ground when they’re legit.
I just don’t think Christie really represents that. He plays backroom games to get old school NJ Dem bosses on his team.
And, as for big money & getting it out of politics – remember that Christie lobbied for Madoff, the Kochs & has ties to ALEC – not great creds.
commented 2014-01-11 19:56:25 -0500 · Flag
Eric, I applaud your courage for writing this piece and its predecessor. However, I wouldn’t advise holding out much hope for gaining even a modicum of agreement in this forum. You spoke of times past, when decency, honesty, and respect for your political opposites were commonplace. But today, it is political suicide to say nice things about those in the party opposite. Today, all it will get you is a bulls-eye on your back come primary time — killed by [supposedly] friendly fire.

And of course, it is this über-partisanship that keeps us divided and impotent in our fight to dismantle the machinery of corruption that is our government. I know we are fighting to change this, but we must accept that our challenge is akin to, as Jeanene would say, pushing sleeping bears up trees. And it will remain this way as long as people fail to realize who the real enemy is — Big Money. Only by coalescing around those issues that we agree on (corny capitalism, government for sale, raising the minimum wage, background checks for gun purchases, etc.) will we ever have the chance to defeat it. I guess Chris Christie is just not one of those things we agree on. Nevertheless, thank you for setting a great example for what it truly means to be transpartisan.
commented 2014-01-11 11:11:13 -0500 · Flag
I appreciate the fact that he stood up to the RWNJs, like Paul. And I wish more of the GOP would get back looking for common ground:

But his stances on virtually every issue & his abuse of power (dare I say “throwing his weight around”?) are appalling.
- He knew what was going on & is lying
- He created a culture of intimidation & insisted on plausible deniability, or
- He’s incompetent in his appointees & in following up on the accusations
commented 2014-01-11 07:57:19 -0500 · Flag
Chris Christie showed his true colors. He is a bully and vindictive, He is an arrogant person who makes his own rules. There is no question in my mind that he knew what was going on. He got caught and threw anyone he could under the bus. He is only upset that he got caught. I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. You will see more bullying stories coming out.
commented 2014-01-10 17:57:56 -0500 · Flag
Bob, it’s true that all I really knew about Christie was based on the media flap after he worked with President Obama during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. While perhaps insignificant in another era, the “hug” thing had an emotional resonance that went far beyond New Jersey. This may have caused me to root for him more than I otherwise would have, but mostly — as you see in the film 9500 Liberty, which is not just a film but also a terrifying event in my life — a Republican who will stand up to extremists on his right is a valuable player to have on a democracy team….
commented 2014-01-10 17:43:46 -0500 · Flag
Dubya had a pedigree very similar to Christies, in so far as the claim that he would build bridges. Without the constraint of his legislature, I think we would see a very different Chris Christie. Chris ignored this Bridge scandal and pressured other politicians to help him sweep it away. Anyone who asked about it was ridiculed for their efforts. From the start this was a big deal that he pretended was insignificant. It was his responsibility, his duty, to look into it and he did not. Why? His inaction suggests he was on board, if not, where was his outrage? Where was the much needed investigation?
commented 2014-01-10 17:32:39 -0500 · Flag
How could it be fatal if it wasnt for Hillary commenting on 4 dead in Bengazi? " What does it matter" So is there a tie between Hillary and Christie for 2nd place of lie of the year? Im having trouble remembering who won 1st place! We dont seem to be shocked anymore by what our politicians do or dont do.
commented 2014-01-10 17:28:07 -0500 · Flag
You don’t live in NJ & all you hear is the media spin.
The only reason Christie seemed reasonable in the first place is that far right governors set the bar so low. He bucked the Tea Party by working with Obama on Sandy aid – but any halfway logical governor would do that.

In addition to BridgeGate & his bullying – Look at his positions:
- Vetoed Marriage Equality
- Vetoed Minimum Wage
- Pulled NJ out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative
- Vetoed pay quality
- Vilified teachers & unions
- Defunded women’s health
- Vetoed his own ban on 50 calibre weapons
- Eliminated Earned Income Credit
- Tax breaks for the wealthy
- Equivocates on global warming
- 1st Gov not to reappoint a standing NJ justice

All I can say is “I told You So” #ProBuono #ChristieConJob

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