“Now I say that those dominions which, when acquired, are added to an ancient state by him who acquires them, are either of the same country and language, or they are not. When they are, it is easier to hold them, especially when they have not been accustomed to self-government; and to hold them securely it is enough to have destroyed the family of the prince who was ruling them[.]”
--Machiavelli, The Prince (emphasis added)
“When you strike at a King, you must kill him.”
So we have a scandal brewing for probable 2016 presidential candidate Chris Christie where it seems that some of his staff appeared to close a huge chunk of the George Washington Bridge about two months before the last election, to get back at a local mayor who didn’t endorse Christie. You can read a sample article about it here, as well as some of the damning emails, here. But we are still at the “what did he know and when did he know it?” stage of the scandal. I don’t believe anyone has actually proven Christie knew of this, let alone ordered it.
That’s what is striking about this scandal. Obviously it was wrong. Basic services are not something you should screw with as part of the political game. I know this is not reality, but roads should be where they are needed, not where your political base is. And you should not be hobbling traffic just to punish someone else. To see the depth of immorality, consider this passage from the article I cited:
In a subsequent text message exchange, an unidentified person told Wildstein, "I feel badly about the kids. I guess." Wildstein replied, "They are the children of Buono voters," referring to then-State Sen. Barbara Buono, Christie's Democratic opponent in the November election.
But even if it was acceptable to screw with the traffic patterns of those voting for opponents (and it isn’t), they didn’t just screw with people voting for Christie’s opponent. Indeed, they were not just screwing with the children of such voters. They were also screwing with people who voted for Christie who happened to live in that area. And their children. And that is wrong. As I wrote a few weeks ago in a wildly different context:
For me, one of the great underappreciated clauses of our Constitution is in the Treason clause. It says: “but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.” The second part of that is fairly easy to understand, but what about the first. What the hell do they mean by the corruption of the blood?
Well, the answer is they are saying you cannot punish the family of a traitor as though they were traitors, too. It is a talisman of what makes this country great. Fundamentally we don’t care who your ancestors were. They could have been kings, they could have been beggars. They could have been heroes and they could have been terrorists. We don’t care. Because you are judged as you.
But these Christie aides, they decided to pass judgment on every man, woman and child who happened to live in that area. Which is not only vile and wrong, but petty. It is petty precisely because it is not effective in that Machiavellian way. They didn’t eliminate their “enemies.” They merely pissed them off as well as a lot of ordinary people on Christie’s side who wonders what happens when payback occurs.
That brings in the other quote I cited at the beginning, one that is attributed to Emerson by Oliver Wendell Holmes: “When you strike at a King, you must kill him.” And the sovereign of New Jersey is the people of New Jersey, and this can rightfully be seen as a strike at the people themselves. It was not only wrong what they did, but ineffective.
But there are several caveats. First, there is a certain element of the press going “I’m shocked, shocked to find out that politicians mess with traffic for political reasons.”
Really, folks. Really? We all know that in reality—and not in my ideals—when party A is in charge counties that typically vote for party B gets the short shrift on highway funding. And let’s not forget the Shutdown Theater from a few months ago. This kind of crud goes on all the time, so let’s not pretend to be overly shocked, here. It’s wrong, but not exactly unprecedented.
Which doesn’t excuse what these Christie officials sure seem to have done, but if we are going to crusade against this kind of abuse of governmental power, let’s crusade against all of it. Let’s not be selective in our outrage. As it stands, right now, this smacks of a politically motivated double standard.
On the other hand, there is nothing like really clear evidence to get the scandal dogs growling. Here it is not quite an admission, but it really is hard to come up with an innocent explanation when a Christie official says that it’s “[t]ime for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
Second, it is reasonable to say that this shouldn’t hurt Christie, but let me point out something I said on twitter this morning:
Anyone who says the #bridgegate scandal won't hurt @GovChristie is forgetting what a big stink the MSM made about @MittRomney's dog
— Aaron Worthing (@AaronWorthing) January 9, 2014
Which bleeds into another point. The entire Romney “doggate” scandal had two maddening features: 1) it was silly, and 2) it was unfair. The silliness was obvious—could one think of a worse reason to pick a president than based on a mistake he made in accidentally mistreating a dog?—while the unfairness is only obvious when you remember that Obama ate a dog. I mean the election shouldn’t have been about how people treated dogs, but if we are going to make it about that, then isn’t what Obama did worse?
So while it is valid to point out, for instance, that there is little moral difference between the IRS targeting conservative groups and Christie officials targeting voters for his opponent, I am not sure that is going to actually make a difference.
Three more observations on the story, for now. First, part of the problem Christie is experiencing today is that he has alienated republicans too much to expect very much help from them.
Second, if it turns out there is no evidence that Christie was involved in this decision, I predict that the New York Times will declare it is still somehow his fault because he set a tone or something. We saw it in Abu Ghraib and I have no doubt we will see it here. I’m not saying it’s right, but it is coming.
Finally, can there be a better example why government should be smaller? Every time you talk about reducing government liberals go to bridges and roads as an example of things that government must do, as though that also means that we need to hand out money to the poor or something and fund cowboy poetry:
(As though something that is popular needs government funding, anyway.)
As Gerald Ford, once said, “[a] government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.” It is a talisman of the essential danger of government doing more and more for you: the danger that you would be deprived of that largesse for political reasons. If politicians play games with your morning commute based on politics (and they do), why on earth should you trust them with anything more important, such as your life and health? And at the same time the smaller government becomes, the easier it is to protect against that kind of corruption because there is necessarily less of it to keep a lid on.
My wife and I have lost our jobs due to the harassment of convicted terrorist Brett Kimberlin, including an attempt to get us killed and to frame me for a crime carrying a sentence of up to ten years. I know that claim sounds fantastic, but if you read starting here, you will see absolute proof of these claims using documentary and video evidence. If you would like to help in the fight to hold Mr. Kimberlin accountable, please hit the donation link on the right. And thank you.
Follow me at Twitter @aaronworthing, mostly for snark and site updates. And you can purchase my book (or borrow it for free if you have Amazon Prime), Archangel: A Novel of Alternate, Recent History here. And you can read a little more about my novel, here.
I have accused some people, particularly Brett Kimberlin, of reprehensible conduct. In some cases, the conduct is even criminal. In all cases, the only justice I want is through the appropriate legal process—such as the criminal justice system. I do not want to see vigilante violence against any person or any threat of such violence. This kind of conduct is not only morally wrong, but it is counter-productive.
In the particular case of Brett Kimberlin, I do not want you to even contact him. Do not call him. Do not write him a letter. Do not write him an email. Do not text-message him. Do not engage in any kind of directed communication. I say this in part because under Maryland law, that can quickly become harassment and I don’t want that to happen to him.
And for that matter, don’t go on his property. Don’t sneak around and try to photograph him. Frankly try not to even be within his field of vision. Your behavior could quickly cross the line into harassment in that way too (not to mention trespass and other concerns).
And do not contact his organizations, either. And most of all, leave his family alone.
The only exception to all that is that if you are reporting on this, there is of course nothing wrong with contacting him for things like his official response to any stories you might report. And even then if he tells you to stop contacting him, obey that request. That this is a key element in making out a harassment claim under Maryland law—that a person asks you to stop and you refuse.
And let me say something else. In my heart of hearts, I don’t believe that any person supporting me has done any of the above. But if any of you have, stop it, and if you haven’t don’t start.
Thank you! Great post that many liberals will never understand.ReplyDelete
Admittedly, many liberals will never understand such shameless embrace of hypocrisy and spin. If Christie can't be president because of this, it's not the media's fault.Delete
Take some personal responsibility. I know for you it's just a slogan, but those words have actual meanings which you Republicans could apply to your life for once. Starting here, maybe?
"Punish your enemies"ReplyDelete
- President B. Obama
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