The Silver Lining of Bridgegate?

by Lisa Schiffren

The most interesting thing about Chris Christie is that it is not possible to have lukewarm feelings about him. They’re hot or cold, sometimes both together. At the moment, that is working against him. But this Bridgegate scandal will pass because the American people have the attention span of a gnat; and reality will force voters to put even the worst possible construction of the behavior leading up to the stupid, unconscionable and bizarrely targeted deliberate creation of traffic in Fort Lee, N.J., into context. Should Governor Christie decide to run for the GOP nomination for president, that context is, as it always is, “compared to what?”

The media, always eager to do the bidding of the Democrats and take out a potentially popular GOP candidate, has devoted more man hours, TV time, and column inches to this scandal than to the much more significant evil of any of the following: Benghazi; sending thousands of American women and men to die in wars the president didn’t believe we should be fighting; using the IRS to destroy conservative political groups; using the Justice Department to control journalists; using the NSA to spy on millions of Americans; destroying health care . . . etc.

But, yes, Christie has real personal flaws. He has a temper, he can be a bully, and one senses a mean streak over petty things. His warm and inclusive speech after winning the governorship of New Jersey by a huge margin last November suggested that he had chosen consultants who were helping him to cultivate a nicer, warmer persona. Still, I prefer to believe that in an age of NSA access to all e-mails and phone conversations, the bridge fiasco was due to a residual atmosphere of meanness in his office, and not the unlikely stupidity of an ex-prosecutor ignoring the reality in which no privacy exists and long-term secrecy is dubious. To paraphrase Richard Nixon — whose 101st birthday it would be today — the American people will forgive “mean,” but stupid is forever. The GOP constantly forgets this truth.

For conservatives, of course, Christie’s real flaws have to do with policy. He’s squishy on matters of Islamic fundamentalism; he’s anti–Second Amendment; he just passed a mini–DREAM Act giving illegals in-state tuition, among other bad calls. This is poison in a national GOP primary, but centrist in a deep-blue state like New Jersey. 

Perhaps the endless, escalating stuffstorm that will follow Governor Christie as Hillary’s media minions attempt to knock him out, will bring him enlightenment on the necessity of pleasing the party whose nomination he may seek. That would be a silver lining — a growth experience predicated on a tactical failing — that benefits us all.