NEW YORK (RNS) Leave it to the governor of New Jersey to take 21st-century normal, strip it of any civilized veneer and show us exactly what we are becoming.

New Jersey, after all, is the state that gave us the so-called Chemical Coast around Linden — where unchecked industrial use of land, water and air to manufacture gasoline shows the ugly side of an automotive culture.

New Jersey gave us Newark, a once-proud city that collapsed long before Detroit made urban corruption and decay a cause for hand-wringing.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, via Wikimedia Commons: http://bit.ly/1bMrCh8

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, via Wikimedia Commons: http://bit.ly/1bMrCh8

New Jersey also gave us balkanized suburbs where extreme wealth builds a wall around itself to keep the riffraff out.

So here was Gov. Chris Christie holding a mirror in our faces with “Bridgegate,” the intentional creation of a monumental traffic jam on the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge to punish a political opponent.

During a two-hour apologia (not apology), Christie talked mostly about himself and how his feelings were hurt by this story of political vengeance against helpless commuters. This is what our national epidemic of narcissism looks like: “I am the center of everything.”

Christie took no responsibility for anything beyond having made poor choices in allies. He said nothing about the bullying tone he has set throughout his career; nothing about ignoring why his disciples were resigning after the mess in Fort Lee began to emerge; no curiosity as to why a top aide was copping the Fifth in sworn testimony down the hall; nothing close to a Truman-esque acceptance of a “buck” stopping at his desk.

This is what irresponsibility looks like. It starts with “I didn’t mean to break the lamp!” Then, the meaningless nonapology, “I’m sorry if you got hurt.” Now this, a state administration where the one at the top sees himself as hapless victim, not governor.

Christie’s dilemma, of course, is that he did great photo-op after Hurricane Sandy, walking beside a Democratic (!) president to show nonpartisan all-in-this-together compassion for storm victims. People desperate for a public face to Republicanism other than Ted Cruz began to hope.

Photo ops don’t have a long shelf life, however, especially when something juicier comes along. If you live by camera and contrivance, you die by camera and reality.

Then, of course, we have the sordid reality of bullying that Christie personifies in politics. Teenagers are committing suicide after classmates bully them. Rape victims get no justice after perps’ lawyers bully the legal system. Large employers bully their employees when the lowly presume to assert control over their labor. An Indian diplomat bullies her domestic staff, and then the nation of India bullies the U.S. to protect her. Gays are being bullied around the world and now in the supposedly ultrareligious state of Utah, where their legal marriages are suddenly not recognized.

Bullying has become the new normal. Use whatever power you have — from wealth to votes to unchecked surveillance-state data to anonymous social media postings — to get your way.

If you hurt millions of commuters, make emergency vehicles late to emergencies, keep students trapped in buses and embarrass an entire state — no problem, all in a good cause, namely, paybacks.

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the author of “Just Wondering, Jesus” and founder of the Church Wellness Project. Photo courtesy Tom Ehrich

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the author of “Just Wondering, Jesus” and founder of the Church Wellness Project. Photo courtesy of Tom Ehrich


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Chris Christie is the poster child for our pervasive ethical swamp. We are mired in narcissism (a personality disorder, untreatable and terrifying up close), evasion of responsibility and bullying.

New Jersey’s governor has shown us just how ugly that swamp is.

(Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the author of “Just Wondering, Jesus” and founder of the Church Wellness Project. His website is www.morningwalkmedia.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich.)

KRE/MG END EHRICH

31 Comments

  1. If the people of New Jersey, the actual government, do not require the representatives they have hired to do their state’s government work to take appropriate action in thoroughly pursuing this outrageous behavior against any and all government workers involved, Christie on down, those elected and those chosen by those elected, then this ugly fiasco can only be blamed on the people of New Jersey, not on the “bully” Chris Christie.

    This is too typical of the rot that has infected our body politic throughout this nation. We are at a very, very advanced and very, very dangerous stage of political disease. It is the type of thing that has always prevented us from really being the democracy we brag that we are. The electorate is to blame, they are the government. As Harry Truman wisely proclaimed with his desk sign, “The buck stop here.” It stops at every politician’s desk. Even before that, it stops at every election ballot. We must absolutely grow beyond the awful and threatening dangers of our political lethargy, illiteracy, and corruption.

    • The election in NJ is a perfect example of WB Yeats’s, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity. ” Christie ran against a person who ran a shoddy and amateurish campaign.

      As a resident of the Garden State, I can safely say that nobody elected Christie on a platform of “punish his enemies through vile corrupt actions”.

      This was an example of NJ elected officials wielding undeserved power against other NJ elected officials. Much of the blame belongs to the disorganized nature of the transit systems between NY and NJ. The MTA answers to 2 masters who have intersecting lines of authority. Nobody really knows who works for who. It is that confusion which Christie exploited for venal ends.

      • Ah, but Christie knows who works for him and fired the one who seems to have given others the impression that the governor would approve.

        The Christie haters won’t wait for any evidence of Christie’s guilt because it’s their job to try to take out anyone who might be a threat to continued White House occupancy by socialists.

        • Christie haters had plenty of ammunition before the election:

          1. When he flat out lied to the public about the costs of expanding the commuter train tunnels, took the money appropriated for it and funneled it into keeping the gas tax low.
          [Every commuter should be cursing his name for that!]

          2. Using state funds towards the construction of a ghost mall boondoggle in the Meadowlands.

          3. Using state funds towards another casino in Atlantic City. One which faced financial problems from inception (How does someone lose money in gambling venues? Give the state a measure of control of it)

          4. Vetoing the marriage equality bill despite huge support.

          The problem being the Hurricane Sandy promos with the President made people forget such foibles and his opponent ran a crappy amateurish campaign.

          • Indeed, Christie haters had ammo, all of it made in the factory of leftist ammo makers, each shell to be engraved with the name of the next Republican or conservative who chooses to run for office.

            Now explain the standing ovation Christie received in the Democrat-held capitol in Trenton earlier this week when he went before them to address the Ft. Lee mess again. Then explain his current 69% approval rating in the state. Remember, he vetoed same- sex “marriages.”

            If you are unblissfully aware of these two facts, perhaps that is due to your chosen media and their penchant for ignoring anything and everything that fails to promote Democrats and liberal causes in general.

          • Duane, you are full of crap. Your sole response is to display your ignorance proudly. This is the reason people invented the facepalm.

            If a conservative is being criticized it is all fabricated according to you.

            “Now explain the standing ovation Christie received in the Democrat-held capitol in Trenton earlier this week when he went before them to address the Ft. Lee mess again”

            1. Because people in NJ are not usually rude jerks in public despite what you see on MTV reality shows.
            2. His approval rates are plummeting fast.
            http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/christie-approval-ratings-tank-strong-article-1.1581449
            http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/13/politics/christie-feds-investigating-sandy-ads/
            3. NJ Democrats are a mess. Unlike yourself, I am not so dogmatic as to lie about conditions when it is politically inconvenient.

  2. What Tom Ehrich’s parenthetical bio-piece at the end of his liberal tirade against Christie fails to note is that he is out to get Christie because he’s a Republican. Bet your bottom dollar Ehrich twice voted for the current White House occupant.

    What, Ehrich, you see Christie as a possible threat to “that woman” gaining entry to the White House again in 2016?

    You falsely claim that Christie avoids responsibility. What do you call it when he fires two of the subordinates directly involved in the mess the moment he learns about it? Frankly, you hit the keyboard long before you had any real idea of the facts here.

    Have you, Ehrich, heard Obama express any regret about putting millions of people through a hell of sorts as they see their healthcare insurance cancelled?
    What about the IRS’s involvement in hamstringing conservative political organizations? Did Obama have a word to say so far about it?

    I wonder whether all the liberals who post in these parts will agree with you, there not being a shred of evidence thus far that Christie was aware in advance of what his staff had done or would have approved of it. Indeed they will, althewhile excoriating Christians for being “judgmental.”

    Bully? How do you define “bully”? While I’m talking “defining” I might ask how you define marriage as well.

    If it can be shown that Christie was responsible for the Ft. Lee mess, then it is time to express the outrage that you’ve given us and to demand his resignation from office. Until then, let’s have less of your liberal angst. Nothing upsets a liberal so much as a politician he sees as a potential threat to the advancement of socialism and other failed schemes.

    Yes, “what we are becoming”: take a closer look at White House operations these 5 years! Your assessment is dead on, but you’re nowhere near the causes.

    • Are you so blinded by your partisan politics that you are unable to distinguish good from evil when it comes to the behavior of politicians, their moneyed owners, and their sycophant followers?

    • Duane, you would never vote for Christie in the GOP primaries. Who are you kidding? To you, he would be a RINO.

      The guy tries to impress the religious right (like vetoing the marriage equality bill) and they won’t ever respect him because they can smell a kiss-up (like his unwillingness to appeal marriage equality by courts). He doesn’t have the Bible thumping credentials you would take seriously.

      Hillary has her own problems. Least of all the same disease Mitt Romney had. A feeling that the presidency is an entitlement, not a prize to be won. That they are doing us a favor by allowing us mere mortals to vote for them. Its one of many reasons she lost in 2008.

      What Christie allegedly did (and his aides definitely did) is base machine politics at its most corrupt. Your defense of such tactics is reprehensible.

      “What do you call it when he fires two of the subordinates directly involved in the mess the moment he learns about it? ”

      The start of covering one’s own behind and phony pleas of ignorance come to mind. If he is to be believed, it is evidence of a total lack of leadership ability. Being unable to rein in his aides from doing something incredibly dangerous and stupid for purely political motives. Either he is incredibly stupid and lazy or he thinks everyone else is.

      • Larry, you may be correct about my not voting for Christie. However, that would depend on his party opposition in primaries. For sure he’d get my vote in the general, for we now know very well what happens when we give socialists 2 terms in the White House. Some of us saw this coming as early as the day Obama announced his candidacy the first time

        You’ve not made a case that Christie gave a go-ahead on Ft. Lee. He’s made mistakes? Yep. Ever politician has. Nothing done by Obama, judging from his backers on this site, has ever been a mistake–unless it was that he failed to ram through an entire socialist agenda in his first two months in office. Your judgment that Christie’s plea of ignorance is phony is not based on any evidence. Thus, it is rash.

        But I appreciate your starting point in that you don’t want anyone in office who shares any traditional sentiments about culture or the Constitution. You have the Constitutional right to that opinion and to make efforts to effect it, provided no attempt at violent overthrow of the government is made.

        For my part, the political process and the health of the country is at stake and has been at stake because political opposition (the GOP) has always been content with compromising on liberal positions. What’s needed is an opposition that turns the tables and forces the liberals to compromise on the GOP agenda. Example: no GOP compromise on the rate of increase in govt. growth. Rather, force the liberals to compromise on the rate of DECREASE in govt. growth.

        • Your denial of Christie’s hand in the Ft Lee debacle is based on nothing but partisan wishful thinking. You missed what I said. Either he ordered it directly or he is such a negligent leader it was going on under his nose without his knowledge. Christie is either a liar or an idiot. Either way, it looks bad for him.

          As the person in charge, he is ultimately responsible for the acts of those working on his behalf. “Personal responsibility” is the mantra of conservatives when talking about anyone besides a conservative.

          You do not have a traditional view of the Constitution, you have a reactionary view of government. Unless it serves your ends, it is of no use to you. Much of what you say is anti-democratic, self-interested and out of touch with reality on the ground.

          • Your unfounded assertion that Christie had a hand in the debacle is nothing more than your own partisan thinking that allows you to make rash judgments. Christie took responsibility numerous times in the last three days. Your side dislikes “personal responsibility” because, by and large, you don’t believe in any such thing. You see the state as being responsible for everything.

            Revisionists do not like the Constitution as written and amended, nor do they like the Founders background commentary on its development. They believe that they possess the power to define language–to justify their own agenda–and subscribe to that fool Algore’s notion of an “expanded” reading of the Document.

            There’s nothing more anti-democratic than a contemporary liberal. He will fashion laws–without reading them–that are contentious for a vast majority of the people even as he fashions them. He will strip millions of people of healthcare insurance they like while he doggedly insists on propping up a program that hasn’t worked from its first day. Very “democratic.”

            I looked at the URL for the NY Post article and it does not support your notions at all. Christie’s ratings are not as high as they were a year ago, but the current number does not reflect only the Ft. Lee mess. Perhaps you think I cannot read, but your citation suggests you cannot find material to support your view. Then you cite CNN! I rest my case.

            November will prove who’s out of touch with “reality on the ground.” I suggest you tell the liberals to take cover, perhaps well underground.

    • It would be wise to study history and learn of the downfall of such crude and self-serving politicos as Chris Christie. Consider Warren Harding and Teapot Dome. Consider George W. Bush’s reputation as a recent example, and that of his vice-president, Dick Cheney, much worse. The recent political demise of Cheney’s ambitious daughter who boldly imitated her father’s ruthlessness is a good study. No office was better named than “vice-president” when Dick Cheney held it. For goodness’ sake, don’t leave out Richard Nixon.

      While you’re hitting the books, hoping to see beyond self-serving politics, don’g ignore religious history. Find out about the likes of the non-Christian Constantine, the so-called “Great,” who called the Council of Nicaea in 325 and took over the early Jesus communities for his personal political goals. “Bridgegate” was nothing to Constantine and Nicaea. Then there’s Adolph Hitler, and Hitler’s henchman, Mussolini, who was hung up on a public square with his mistress, his latest mistress. There were so many. There are so many political “mistresses” and most of them are not females. What term?

      • gilhcan, you might have contributed to the discourse by actually relating your comments specifically to something I wrote.

        You don’t know that Christie can be tied to decisions made by his subordiates. There are plenty of examples in government of “second-tier” people carrying out their own designs while thinking they have the bosses blessing to do so. Nor do I know. If Christie can be proven to have been directly involved, then I agree he should be run out of office.

      • Thanks, gilhcan, for giving us insight into the revisionist sort of history you’ve been wallowing in over the years.

        The only thing you haven’t done is to canonize Obama, and I suspect you refrain from that only because that sort of reverence has too close a tie to Catholicism.

  3. Tom Ehrich’s observations and commentary about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s crude public bullying are right on. He has dotted every i and crossed every t. It goes far beyond Christie, New Jersey, politics, and government. It is everywhere in our sick body politic. Who are those who allow it, condone it, promote it? They are everyone. They are “We, the people…” We hire these thugs. We put up with their shenanigans, even when they hurt us, even when they destroy us.

    Yes, absolutely, Christie and his administration of thugs, and any thug members of the New Jersey legislature, Republican or Democrat, who have been supporting him and cooperating with him, are guilty. The only politician who has looked clean from the start–and that’s because he refused to support Christie’s reelection, the apparent reason for Christie’s retaliatory bullying at the George Washington Bridge–is the mayor of Fort Lee.

    This is a national ugliness, and it is the fault of all of us. Consider our obstructionist, do-nothing national House of Representatives. We hire and rehire these innately corrupt politicians. Consider the huge vote Christie received from the people of New Jersey just last November when they re-hired him for another term as their bullying governor while he boldly, publicly presumed he was most certainly walking up the drive to take residency in our White House.

    All the while, “Buono’s kids” suffered from Christie’s thuggery. “Buono’s kids” are all of us who are made to suffer by the lethargic and illiterate choices of the electoral majorities who fall under the spell of crude big mouths like Chris Christie. Are we a national majority of bullies? Our choices of politicians makes it appear that way. Our history of international thuggery ever since World War II makes it appear that way.

    • No mention by you of the thuggery that is the IRS as it has been operating since–well, since 20 January 2009. You fault both political parties but specifically reference only one of the two. That doesn’t say much for any objectivity on your part.

      • Lets see if I’ve got this straight, Mr Lamers. You believe that both parties have thuggish members, so every time someone comments on the thuggish acts of one individual they have to bring up the thuggish acts of another individual from the other party, just to be fair. That way the thuggishness won’t seem so bad because “everybody’s” doing it, right? Or are you just upset because your guys got caught?

        • Mr. Downs, “our guys” did get caught and were fired. The effort by the leftists in these parts to tie Christie to all of it is for reasons that are as clear and seen through as a highly polished window.

          You will not find any of the liberal posters here or elsewhere ever commenting on the long-running story of the IRS, whose thugs still haven’t been brought to justice and whose Thug-in-Chief will be around for another 3 years.

          I hope you haven’t concluded that because thuggishness is bi-partisan I think it ok. Again, my point is that the liberals here find nothing amiss in 6 years of misgovernment by a person with absolutely no executive skills, but they dislike Christie because he makes no bones about where he stands.

          By the way, he still has a 69% approval rating in his state, and he got a big applause yesterday from the Democrat-controlled legislature where he spoke. Those are news items I presume you are unaware of because the liberal media didn’t present them. Fox did.

          • Mr Lamers, the commentary was about Gov. Christie, not the IRS or President Obama. Usually the comments that follow have something to do with the subject.of the essay. Moreover this site is called Religion News Service; they try hard to link everything to something to do with religion or a moral question the religious care about. This essay is about the moral swamp that is found around bullies. The author finds Gov. Christie to be a bully and that has resulted in the problems cited. If you don’t want to be labeled a troll, you have to stick to the subject.

          • Mr. Downs, the label doesn’t bother me. LIberals are always discombobulated when someone brings inconvenient truths related to the genera topic to the table. Yes, my comments were related to Ehrich’s silly piece. His starting points in all he has written that I have read are the usual liberal whining-points.

            “Bully.” Sounds like a word used by the sissy on the playground who is afraid of his own shadow as well as that of everyone else. The term “bully” is totally inappropriate in politics. Ehrich’s use of it is to be questioned in view of his failure to see any sort of bullying being done Obama and the Democrats in Congress. Had he been circumspect (liberals don’t seem to have that in their DNA) he would not have used the term bully at all, knowing that there’s plenty of examples of strong-arming on the other side of the aisle.

            The problem, of course, is that no liberal ever sees anything he does as an act of bullying or other forms of intimidation. He begins with the idea that what he does is always correct. If conservatives adopted this same posture, perhaps we wouldn’t see the cultural and political decay that has marked this country for half a century.

        • Mr. Downs, indeed this site is part of Religion News Service. What is so odd is that all the leftists who believe in nothing beyond their own absolute authority regarding morals and ethics and can’t stand religion seem to flock to this site.

          They’re doing so because they, too, are on a mission. See, we all have something in common, eh?

  4. Although I will agree that Christie has proudly embraced the “political bully” persona, and it is really difficult to fathom that someone who has a reputation of running an extremely “tight ship” would not have known, or even ordered the lanes of the bridge to be closed, although no evidence has been brought forth to prove any of this, yet, but the scrutiny has just started.
    Even if it is never proven that he had direct involvement or knowledge, it does show that he is less in control than someone who wants to be President should be. This was not some employees of one of the many agencies in government making choices that lead to alleged issues, as was the situation with President Obama pertaining to the IRS. Although in that case no wrong doing was ever proved, even though intense investigations and hearings were had. Rather this was members of Christie’s “inner circle”, as he put it, that carried out this action.
    Unfortunately no matter the ultimate outcome, this will forever taint Christie to some. However, to others who saw the hug he gave President Obama, he was already tainted.
    We’ll only know the final result once the fat lady..er…man sings, or not.

    • Perhaps. You cannot deny, though, that the media is placing far more attention on Christie than it has ever placed on what happens in Obama’s own bailiwick. Thus far, the msm have devoted practically no time to the IRS mess nor to Benghazi, as I understand from those in the alternative media who count msm minutes devoted to subjects on tv.

      “Alleged issues” you call the demonstrable behavior at the IRS. People in charge don’t resign (after being on full-paid leave for months) if there’s no evidence to back up the charges.

      Very few people know about all this because–ta dah!–they get their news from the msm if they get it at all. Why watch news and commentary when you can spend hours watching HLN! And then E!

    • Gotta hand it to you, Earold, for point out that Christie is less in control than should be expected of an executive. We have the control freak in the White House for 5 years already to set the sterling example of this, no?

      Odd, isn’t it, that the liberals who despise the “controlling” influence of religion have no problem with the control of big government. It proves in a way that even the leftists have their own religion in the form of statism.

      You are right in observing that conservatives keep Christie at a distance. We may, however, find ourselves once again doing no good for ourselves in two years: voting for a Repub who happily dances with socialists rather than demanding that socialists on the Hill compromise and agree to a real reduction in government power and cost.

  5. Poor Chris Christie–getting it from both sides now. He was already in such deep political doo-doo with the radical right that they have labeled him a “RINO” (“Did you see him hob-nobbing with that Muslim Kenyan?”) Now he is getting it from the progressive sector because of the incredibly, preternaturally stupid Bridgegate mischief perpetrated by his trusted staff, allegedly without his knowledge (though that is yet to be determined).

    Whatever–it’s a good show for the evil “lamestream media”, and one for which the rotund guv’nor is writer, producer, and director.

    • Christie is doomed either way.

      Either he is
      1) An evil bastage who abused his power to attack someone who opposed him, and his town; or

      2) An incompetent leader who cannot effectively pay attention to what his own staff is doing.

      Neither works well for swing voters.

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