Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Bridge Too Far

Okay, I'm succumbing to the urge to get my two cents in on Chris Christie.

What this bridge embarrassment reminds me of is the resignation of Nixon.  After that happened, some European friends of mine expressed their incredulity that such a seemingly small thing (compared, say, to Reagan's Iran-Contra treason) could result in driving a President from office.  What they didn't understand was this:  There were always two views of Nixon in the country- Nixon, the brilliant politician and master statesman who could guide the country through any crisis, and Nixon-well not to mince words- the crook.  What Watergate did was make it impossible for most people to believe in the first alternative.  Watergate played right into the most negative stereotypes about Nixon.

Well, that is the reason that this bridge scandal is going to do so much damage to Christie.  There is already a well-established narrative of Christie as a belligerent bully, and this incident plays right into it.  In fact, in my lifetime, I've seen almost all political "scandals" that did real damage to people work for exactly that reason- it just made it too believable that they were what their opponents said they were.

Not that it will affect Christie's chance for the nomination- after all, he's in a party that just welcomed back to the Congress a guy busted with three and a half grams of coke.  But with people who admit they are Republicans now down to 25% in a recent poll, getting the Republican nomination is likely to prove a quick route to oblivion.


Paul Avery said...

I'm sure your Nixon analysis played a part, but Watergate was directed against us, not some smarmy bunch of furiners who are terrierists. The Contra-Bridge scandal is also exclusively domestic naughtiness. If Christie runs at all, he won't survive the first primaries with this dogging him.

Green Eagle said...

Well, we agree. All I was saying is that you can't understand the potential damage of something like this without being familiar with the pre-existing narratives about the characters involved; and Christie's pre-existing narrative is none too palatable. His only hope for national office was to leave the bullying in the past; and this incident makes that pretty damned hard.

isaac said...

I know people who are shallow enough to swallow something like the following scenario:

Christie loses a bunch of weight between now and the primaries and touts that as evidence of the total change he has undergone, inside and out.

I know people who would willingly fall for some BS like that rather than EVER vote for a Democrat (I live in one of the reddest red states).

Green Eagle said...

Isaac, I am positive that the scenario you describe is the one Christie will go for, if for no other reason than that it is the only one open to him.

We saw with Romney that the gullibility of American voters is (surprisingly) not infinite. It remains to be seen whether they can be sold this particular pile of nonsense, with the press, which has already formed a man-crush on Christie doing everything it can to push the narrative.

isaac said...

It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

One of the reasons I believe that this has stayed as publicly visible as it has is that it's about something to which most Americans, if not all can relate: being stuck in traffic. And Christie/his aides purposely inflicted it on many thousands of people in a cheap power play.

A lot of people seem to be willing and able to forgive and forget (or ignore) much of the truly huge scale crap they really ought to be paying attention to, and have a real capacity for getting mightily honked off at the more mundane--the kinds of things to which their daily frame of reference allows them to relate.

No one likes traffic. No one likes being in traffic, or being stuck in it. Christie and/or his aides inflicted it on people for petty political reasons.

On one hand, it reads like a comic book villain plot, because it was such a ridiculous and pointless, petty thing to do.

But on the other hand, what kind of villainy could Christie be capable of if he had access to real, high tech, heavy duty, destructive means? What if Christie was in charge of all the federal agencies and resources?

That should be a worrying concern for everybody as far as I'm concerned, and if I had anything to do with Democratic messaging if Christie did rub for president, I think I would be raising that question at every opportunity.