Jan 15 2014

Doug Fairbanks he ain’t

Published by at 10:16 am under Rainey

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Someone – we don’t know who just yet – but someone has pulled back the curtain on that pudgy little fella working the controls in New Jersey politics. And what we see back there is he’s just a real – and flawed – little guy like the rest of us. He’s really not “larger-than-life.” He’s really not a “different kind of politician.” And he won’t be on the presidential ballot in 2016. He’s lied. Several times. And it’s been proven.

Though a follower of things political, I’ve tried to avoid getting into this Christie mess. In the first week or two of disclosures of the abuses in the George Washington Bridge story, the whole thing seemed like a tempest in a Jersey teapot. Disgraceful actions by an overzealous staff run amok. Just the usual B.S. But Christie himself, a New York media blitz, the purely amateurish and irrational actions of some of his Republican political travelers and pictures – those damning pictures – have made it impossible to “walk on by.”

When this whole thing blew up a couple of weeks ago, I said to myself “Self,” I said. “This guy’s a pro. He’s tough. He’s a straight shooter. He’ll ream out his staff, throw out the garbage and put the whole thing to rest. Nothing to see here. Go on to something else.”

But Christie has become his own worst problem. At first, he hunkered down. Silence. Then he decided spending two hours on his feet with New York and national media would put the whole thing to rest. It didn’t. For two reasons.

First, answering questions from 60-70 reporters while staying “on message” for that time is impossible. You’re going to get the same questions 12 different ways. And, if you stray from the absolute truth just once, you’re going to screw up and contradict something before it’s over. Christie thought he could beat that. He didn’t. He screwed up several times.

Second, his lengthy appearance “on camera” was probably the longest continuous stretch he’s stood before the national public to be looked over. What he showed was not the image of a controlled, even-tempered, intelligent and wise decision-maker in command of his duties. Presidential material, as it were. He was alternately churlish, apologetic, humble, over-bearing, articulate, inarticulate, knowing, unknowing, aware of detail, unaware of detail and obviously reaching to find new answers to questions already answered. He lost me when he tried to make himself a victim going through the “cycles of grief.”

Compounding his problems has been his Republican “friends.” Rather than trying to find something honest and positive to drum up public support for Christie in his time of trial, Giulani, Santorum, Huckabee and the Republican scribes at Fox dragged out Benghazi and the IRS – trying to use the oft-disproved lies of the loony right to divert attention to the White House. And those guys want us to put them back in public office? Really?

On his own, Christie has shown himself to be a chief executive either out-of-touch with his own top-level staff or he’s created a staff that freelances with the governor’s name and image – and he allows it. He’s either ceded control of affairs of the State of New Jersey to others while pursuing his national political ambitions or he’s too isolated to know what’s going on in the office next door. Either he’s the jovial, wise politician he tries to depict or he’s the bully using the powers of his office to punish those who don’t follow his line.

Those two hours in front of the cameras could well have been the single, most self-destructive turning point in Christie’s political fortunes as he tried to win back an increasingly suspicious media. Or, maybe there’ll be many smaller turning points – the ones accumulated over the years in which it seems he or his renegade staff punished perceived New Jersey political non-adherents to the Christie management style.

It’s not possible to believe Chris Christie didn’t know – long ago – of the bridge debacle and the resulting multi-government and citizen reaction to it. There’s proof of that already. It’s not believable that his staff kept an ambitious politician so successfully sequestered from events that so impacted the very voters he needs as his political base for further national successes. We’ve got proof of that, too.

Chris Christie today may be the same guy he was 30 days ago to New Jersey supporters. But he’s not the same guy he was 30 days ago to a national audience that had little knowledge of his more earthy persona. And of his hardball political proclivities.

The only guy I know who could stand in the breech and take on a hundred swordsmen successfully was Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. Chris Christie is no Doug Fairbanks!

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