In a matter of hours, Governor Chris Christie turned what was the worst day of his political career into one of his finest.
That senior aides deliberately and gleefully ordered traffic jams and wreaked havoc on thousands of commuters for four days last September was an act of political pettiness. And one that Governor Christie says he neither knew about, encouraged, nor ordered.
“I was blindsided yesterday,” Christie said in a press conference where his humility, regret and “sadness” were on full display, daring in the first few moments to utter words often elusive from the mouths of errant pols too heavy with hubris to say, “I apologize . . . I am humiliated and embarrassed.” Hillary never said that about Benghazi, and to that same point, Christie didn’t say, “What difference does it make?” about the bridge scandal.
That’s leadership. Leaders are human, fallible, emotional when betrayed by trusted aides or when facing the aftermath of natural disasters like Sandy. Leaders can speak with few notes, no net, and raw candor for nearly two hours. (Something else Hillary and frankly, some of the other 2016 GOP aspirants cannot.)
Leaders also surround themselves with people worthy of their title, taxpayer compensation, and public trust. Personnel is policy, President Reagan said, and he was correct. The governor’s zero tolerance for this type of outrageous behavior should be clearer moving forward. There were cracks in what many see as a tight Christie ship. Their boss’s no-nonsense approach to people is not the same as their indifference to thousands of their own constituents’ need to get to school, work, the hospital, and airports absent man-made hassle. Christie may be glib and jocular at town halls, but he never would halt a town to prove a point.
Now imagine if we could fire every political consultant for being “callous and indifferent” (or just plain full of themselves) . . .
How was such an awful day one of his finest? Because oddly enough this major setback may well have enhanced Christie’s position for 2016. As Mitt Romney knows now, people like people who are like them. Christie made a mistake, apologized, promptly removed those who erred, and resolved to make right a horrible situation. After eight years of a president who displays no such skills, Americans may hope for a different kind of change.
— Kellyanne Conway is president and CEO of the polling company/WomenTrend.