(Article changed on February 18, 2014 at 14:06)
(Article changed on February 18, 2014 at 13:57)
(Article changed on February 18, 2014 at 13:40)
The looming national horror, beside the designer bridge gridlock that redefined gridlock forever, remains the prospect of viewing Chris Christie striped bare. Lord protect us from the spectacle of this particular emperor sans clothes. Talk about a game-changer. For starters, feast on the sub-species, fat cat criminal, disheveled in open robe and slippers. Then wonder how such hard-won media armor dissolved in a New Jersey second.
Judging by this jaw-dropping amateur-hour pageant, neither scandals nor "cover-ups" are what they used to be. If Washington, goes the old saw, is Hollywood for ugly people, New Jersey is Washington for repulsive screw-ups.
Yet the special magic of the Christie-Bridge scandal transcends its opening gambit, ongoing melodrama, or inevitable condemnations. Who imagined our favored default image of government gridlock would lose all metaphoric meaning? Who imagined an election in the bag would spur official pettiness that made real-world gridlock for thousands of innocents an organized team sport?
With a gold medal in flubbed bullying, the scope, duration, crudeness, and tactical failure sets this dirty trick apart. Above all, no scandal across our age of dirty tricks is more understandable and less defensible. Every sixth-grader, every low-information voter, instantly gets the story: a bizarrely-conceived revenge ploy goes badly awry, incurring public mayhem while leaving the targeted mayor not only unintimidated but empowered. Say what? Schoolyard bullies incited an unmotivated tantrum that turned a neutral into a potent enemy? Good show, as poetic justice confirms a new modern low-point for amateur conspirators.
Didn't Cheney Master This?
Compare this sustained Christie flop to V.P. Cheney's masterpiece of evil-doing when outing the CIA agent, Valerie Plame. Cheney first shielded his office and administration with degrees of separation between source and target. Then he connived with a top staffer to betray their own government by leaking the morsel to the press, which did the dirty work. The villainy of indirection punished Plame, along with the CIA (no Cheney ally), while menacing her husband, whose testimony doomed the disintegrating Iraq propaganda. It took years to unpack this capital infamy and only intermediaries got shafted: the darkest WH thug escaped with only a scratch (and full pension). That's how triumphant dirty tricks are done.
Ditto: brazenly counterfeit indictments on Iraqi WMDs, Saddam's agency in 9/11, even laughable, imminent mushroom clouds. Because outlandish, though plausible fantasies create their own fantasy world, hard evidence couldn't negate scams. No expert could reverse the general claim, that Saddam threatened us with blustery belligerence. Plus, Cheney slandered all critics as stupid, uninformed (lacking his secret sources) or virtual traitors. And all crowned with this paranoid whopper: every 1% threat justifies all-out, unilateral, pre-emptive broadsides against fabricated enemies.
Give your maniacal Karl Rove a teaspoon of obfuscation and outpours a truckload of deniability: what, assailing us better-informed patriots? Not only did evil inventions shield the Dubya fortress, but re-elected a "war president," as unintended miscues got written off to the fog of war. How opposite stands Christie, buffeted by malice and bad faith swelled by implausible denials -- all wrapped in glaring incompetence.
America pooh-poohs ruthlessness when serving a (perceived) winning hand, but not when losers screw up, double-down, get caught, then are badly burned by their own backfire. That's why Christie will never be president. That's why party big wigs left him hanging. Even if the fat one gets off, selling his "no knowledge, no liability" fiction, is he not stamped with the loser's mark, alongside Gingrich, Perry, McCain and Romney?
Bridge Closure to Nowhere
In short, the Christie crowd gives dirty tricksters a bad name. Apparently, the governor had not communicated to staff what successful roguery is about, having been there, done that. Whereas the Bush-Cheney gang anticipated countless defenses (making themselves the victims), the hollow Christie creamer was caught flatfooted, his entire bulk standing on nothing. Thus, he had to blame a veteran staff for an unbelievable rash of misjudgments, treating them like folks he hadn't talked to in months. No wonder the feeding frenzy: every resentful victim of Christie's heavy boot is free to blast away. A scandal goes bad when setting up other axes to fall: that firestorm ends in criminal indictment. Finally, we have the fabled bridge closure to nowhere.
If nothing else, the fake Christie campaign narrative is kaput. This champion sold bipartisanship but now we know that's not about working with Democrats but only criminal allies vs. "enemies" who won't play ball. Second, Christie promoted his straight-shooting, street smarts, but his scandal confirms the opposite. Who believes this super-micromanager was ambushed by the dumbest staff this side of the Three Stooges? No straight-shooter hires such a mess of witlings.