Jersey Gov. Chris
Christie gobbled up most of the country’s political oxygen this
week with his administration’s
seemingly retributive traffic policies, the political-scandal
market was being serviced by various insults emanating from former
Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ new book,
Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War. Though the two
stories on the surface would seem to have nothing in common, dig a
fingernail into both and you’ll quickly hit the same conclusion:
Politicians and the organizations around them are largely in the
business of getting elected, for which they will use whatever tool,
or stake whatever position they can get away with. Even at the
potential cost of human lives.
scandal is clear on this front. At the very least, people in the
circle of trust—including his longtime campaign manager, the
well-connected GOP politico and Jersey power broker Bill
gleeful at the pain inflicted on residents and even children by
traffic closures they engineered and then stonewalled the press and
Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich about. This is one of the more
In one exchange of text messages on the second day of the lane
closures, [David] Wildstein, [one of two Christie appointees at the
Port Authority,] alludes to messages Fort Lee Mayor Mark
Sokolich had left complaining that school buses were having trouble
getting through the traffic.
“Is it wrong that I’m smiling,” the recipient of the text
message responded to Wildstein. The person’s identity is not clear
because the documents are partially redacted for unknown
“No,” Wildstein wrote in response.
“I feel badly about the kids,” the person replied to Wildstein.
“They are the children of Buono voters,” Wildstein wrote, making
a reference to Barbara Buono, the Democratic candidate for
governor, who lost to Christie in a landslide in November.
While Christie loyalists were joshing
about the traffic problems of Fort Lee residents, an unconscious
91-year-old woman lay waiting in Fort Lee for an ambulance that was
delayed in the jam.
The woman later died.
It’s a grotesque Jersey
version of the ugly truth that underlies all electoral
politics: The primary goal is to win re-election. There’s a reason
that the same people who work on political campaigns then work for
important jobs in government—it’s largely the same job, with the
same boss, and the same goal. Take a look at Bill Stepien’s
In between Christie campaigns, Stepien worked in Trenton as the
governor’s deputy chief of staff for legislative and
intergovernmental affairs, and was the architect of the governor’s
trademark town hall meetings. He previously worked for U.S. John
McCain’s presidential campaign and was national field director for
former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Think of these kinds of careers, and of the callous disregard
these people can have for voters and insufficiently loyal
politicians (Stepien’s reaction to Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich’s
public complaints about the traffic jam was “The mayor is an
idiot”), the next time you hear someone describe politics as
public service. When you give politicians power—such as
the authority to appoint leaders to bi-state public bodies that
basically all the infrastructure in and around New York City
and New Jersey—you are handing over tools that they and the many
plausible deniers that work for them can and will use to get the
boss man re-elected. It is disgusting, and it is
predictable. If you want less corruption, give politicians
That goes for the woman who
Christie started this week thinking he may run against for
president in 2016. Though it hasn’t gotten nearly the same press,
Robert Gates has
this to say about Hillary Clinton and her former
Democratic-primary rival, Barack Obama:
Hillary told the president that her opposition to the 
surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the
Iowa primary…. The president conceded vaguely that
opposition to the Iraq surge had been political. To hear the two of
them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising
as it was dismaying.
Regardless of what one thinks of the Iraq surge (I was against
it, FWIW), the idea of a future secretary of state and future
president making life-and-death policy decisions based on their own
crass political considerations is fundamentally grotesque. And it
shouldn’t surprise anybody. Their job is to get elected;
ours is to stop getting bamboozled. If you don’t want your fellow
citizens to be used as human pawns in the debased game of power
politics, then work to limit the amount of latitude politicians can
have over our lives.
from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2014/01/09/christies-traffic-and-hillarys-war-decis