There are a few things that have been going on over here in Jersey during the Christie years that have driven me absolutely insane. Actually, they’re not going on over here in Jersey, they’re going on in the media’s blind spot to my governor.
The other day I watched Governor Christie at his lengthy press conference. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I didn’t make it through the entire thing. Nearly two hours of watching someone explain why they deserve to be first person on the Titanic’s dinghies is a long time. We got it. You didn’t know. You just heard. You were working out. (Not for nothin’, am I the only person who thought that remark was a particularly overworked piece of political theatre ~ wedged in there like a nun at a circuit party?)
None of that bothered me. That’s all to be expected. What bothered me is what always bothers me about the governor, and it was distilled in this exchange.
Q: Your critics say this reveals that you are a political bully, that your style is payback. Are you? And does this compromise your ability to serve?
GOV. CHRISTIE: No, I’m not. Hey, listen, Kelly (sp). Politics ain’t bean bag, OK? And everybody in the country who engages in politics knows that. On the other hand, that’s very, very different than saying that, you know, someone’s a bully. I have very heated discussions and arguments with people in my own party and on the other side of the aisle. I feel passionately about issues. And I don’t hide my emotions from people. I am not a focus-group tested, blow- dried candidate or governor.
I gotta say, I find myself increasingly disturbed that the Christie image and brand ~ a shoot from the hip guy who tells it like it is, a guy whose not been watered down by the fact that he is a public servant nor censored by the fact that a very important part of his job is to be in the public eye ~ has somehow inured him from ever being called rude. He’s not rude, that’s just Chris. Well, if that’s “just Chris,” then “just Chris” is remarkably immature. It’s one thing not to be censored or watered down by the corporations and the wealthy who bankrolled your campaign. (Not for nothin’, I don’t believe for one second that he’s not. Do you? Just another part of the image.) It’s quite another never to find yourself censored by maturity. Does it really become a leader to behave like a teenage girl whose parents have just informed her that she will not be leaving the house in that dress every time someone challenges or questions him?
Have our standards for politicians sunk so low ~ have we lost so much faith in the system that in order for a politician not to be considered “a focus-group tested, blow dried candidate or governor” they must simply be a putz? These are the only options? Liar or asshole?
Here’s the thing, the two don’t cancel each other out. They are not mutually exclusive. Being honest, even passionate and emotional, doesn’t give you a pass to say whatever you wish, in whatever tone you wish to say it. Especially when you are a public servant. He works for us, the citizens of New Jersey. To listen to the media, one could surmise that the governor isn’t actually capable of being rude or condescending because he’s just being honest. He’s not dismissive, he’s refreshing. He doesn’t demean, he’s emotional. We have been presented with a false choice. Is it too much to ask that a politician be both honest and respectful???
And one final question: Does the “passion” he displays work both ways? Does he take such unfiltered “honesty” being flung his way as a sign of passion, or as a sign of disrespect? I think we all know the answer to that.