Wednesday, January 17 , 2018, 3:45 pm | Fair 68º


Mark Shields: Chris Christie Must Bridge Credibility Gap of His Own Making in Scandal

There are legitimate reasons why we voters have been a lot more willing to trust the tough job of president to governors — 11 separate times, with Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush — rather than senators, which occurred only once in the 88 years between 1920 and 2008 with John F. Kennedy.

Like mayors, governors actually do something. We hold them accountable for the decisions they make about how to spend taxpayer money. They decide through whose neighborhood the new highway will run, and whether to build a state hospital or community college.

Senators, who are only one out of 100 and accountable for only their own votes, make speeches. A governor, who is one of only one, makes decisions. Senators hold hearings where they provide us with talking points about a master plan for the transportation grid.

Governors give us real answers about unfilled highway potholes, the latest tuition hike at our state university or the raging forest fire in our state park. Senators give you position papers on national priorities. Governors, with their state budgets, tell us what's important, what isn't and costs.

On Aug. 26, 2011, as Hurricane Irene threatened the vulnerable New Jersey shore, Gov. Chris Christie provided a memorable definition of "governor" as he spoke directly to the foolish sun worshippers who refused to seek cover: "Get the hell off the beach, and get out. You're done. It's 4:30. You've maximized your tan. Get in your car and get out." The no-nonsense directness of his words made you want to cheer.

Now, almost 29 months after that leadership moment, Christie's words have sadly become less authentic, and the music is gone: "When mistakes are made, I have to own up to them and take the action necessary to remediate them." Remediate? That's not how the original Christie talked. "I am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here." Abject stupidity? No. What "was shown here" was nothing less, by the closest and most trusted of Christie's personal and political intimates, than the cold-blooded, vindictive abuse of power.

For several days in September, during Christie's triumphant re-election campaign, these governor appointees — reportedly in bare-knuckles retaliation against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee who had refused to endorse Christie's candidacy — closed the lanes out of Fort Lee leading to the George Washington Bridge. At least four times, paramedics were unable to reach people needing emergency care, including four injured in a car accident and an unconscious 91-year-old woman, who later succumbed to cardiac arrest. Ordinary Americans missed meetings, interviews and reunions because some bullies from the Christie camp wanted to punish the mayor of a town of 35,000 people.

True, the governor did publicly apologize. True, he did take action by firing (after they were incriminated by their own emails) his deputy chief of staff — the inconveniently named Bridget Anne Kelly — and his closest political adviser.

But, in my experience, it is rare for devoted political allies of any candidate to deliberately do something that would not please the candidate, should he or she learn about it. Christie not knowing the character of the people he most trusts and not being curious about what they are doing hardly constitutes a recommendation for higher office.

The George Washington wrongdoing will eventually be a bridge to somewhere when we find out what the governor knew and when he knew it.

Mark Shields is one of the most widely recognized political commentators in the United States. The former Washington Post editorial columnist appears regularly on CNN, on public television and on radio. Click here to contact him, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >