Saturday, January 11, 2014

Bully Politics

The Chris Christie bridge closure scandal is interesting fodder for the news media. If you listen to former NY Mayor Giuliani, he said it was just a prank. Obviously a prank not appreciated by the multitude of people, school buses carrying children to their first day of school and emergency vehicles stuck in a traffic jam around Fort Lee for hours.

“I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue in its planning or its execution,” Christie said. Those words are probably true. Planning and executing the bridge traffic jam was done by his minions and he fired them, 4 months after the fact. Yesterday he played the victim. He was sad and felt betrayed. Don't get me wrong here - I kind of like Chris Christie. I was of the mind that he was more genuine and honest than most of the politicians who just parrot the party line in order to maintain their political sucking of the taxpayer teat at our expense. I think he is wearing the victim coat on this one and it doesn't fit well.

He may not have planned or executed the idea but his staff got the idea to do this little "prank" from somewhere and that's where the bully politics come into play. What is the definition of a bully? A bully is defined as a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidate people. Bullies like attention and power. Christie insists he is not a bully and maybe he isn't, but there are degrees to bullying and his personality sure projects a bullying trait to some degree.

Christie is a larger than life politician. He projects an administrative image of - it's my way or the highway. He prides himself on getting things done and he suffers no fools. He intimidates and badgers and we kind of liked it when he did it in his press conferences. He worked with President Obama during Hurricane Sandy and he was blustering, quarrelsome and badgered Republicans who chastised him for working with the enemy. He tells it like it is and he gets things done. But at what cost?

Publicly, bully politics has worked for Christie. Privately though, bully politicians make for an interesting workplace. Intimidation and overbearing management of employees, including your top advisors and confidants makes for an uncomfortable and stressful work environment. Working with a bully politician can be harmful to one's health and push people to do things they think their larger than life boss might want but who doesn't come right out and direct it. Staffers want to please and if someone is in the inner trusted circle of a bully politician and is privy to and take part in the background talking and strategizing that goes on in the office behind closed doors, it’s plausible that things like this bridge gridlock scandal can happen.  A powerful bully politician creates powerful bully staffers.

I heard the term “willful ignorance” this morning on talk TV. Willful ignorance is when you don’t ask questions, and don’t look into something. Then, when something blows up you can basically wear the victim coat and say I didn’t plan or execute what is now a hot potato scandal or problem. The problem with that stance when working for this kind of boss is that some loyal staffer is going to be the fall guy. That is just the way it is when you get in bed with a bully. The bully is never wrong.

We all know bullies. We have bullies right here in river city. When it comes to local politics, there is plenty of talk about bully behavior. The thing about bullies is that they create fear. Fear in politics is a dangerous thing and it creates dangerous results. Just look at New Jersey for an example.


  1. Any bullys among South Dakota's recent governors? Hmmm....

  2. deljessen@gmail.comJanuary 11, 2014 at 11:11 PM

    In this case, Christie's "plausible deniability" carries a couple of very large down-sides: 1. He never showed a moment's curiosity while the bridge closure and catastrophic THREE-DAY traffic jam was going on in his state. 2. He never inquired as to WHY two of his appointees RESIGNED over this matter. 3. Now he wants us to think that firing his Assistant Chief of Staff is going to make it all go away. He may be perfectly suited for the "ruff-and-tumble" of New Jersey politics... but this proves to me that he just does not have the RIGHT STUFF for national office.

  3. I'll take the contrarian point of view; I'm waiting for the full investigation to be complete prior to condemning him for this fiasco. If indeed, he had any knowledge or part in it, stick a fork in him he's done. New Jersey is known for corrupt government and politics, second only to Illinois (Chicago). Thus far, It appears those identified as responsible had key roles in his political campaign. Payback politics have long been imbedded.

    The Democrats have been delirious condemning him; Republican 2016 candidates see it as opening to take the shine off. The tea party (small caps intended), have taken the opportunity to pile on because of his moderate views and he actually showed gratitude by shaking the hand of President Obama for swift federal support after Sandy. Seems he has no buoy in this storm.

    His news conference on Thursday seemed to me sincere, contrite and appropriate action was taken.
    I am anxious to hear the conclusions. If the facts implicate the Governor, let him pay the price.