Crisp Christie?

The case of Chris Christie presents a certain amount of irony for the Power Line editorial board.  Unlike Paul, I tend to like Christie, and think his overly enthusiastic embrace of Obama before the election in 2012 is possibly forgivable for the simple reason that it stemmed from his effusive style that has made him so effective on other fronts (like smacking public employee unions around), and as Churchill liked to remark, you have to take the rough with the smooth.  My broader doubts about him do however connect with his current agony.

On the other hand, I think “Gridlockgate” is a big deal and potentially fatal to Christie’s prospects—perhaps deservedly so.  National Review Online asked me to comment yesterday, which I obliged with “Crisp Christie?”  Several commenters have misunderstood my argument (with one complaining that “Power Line has invaded The Corner”), so let’s “revise and extend” the argument, as they say in the House.

Paul is quite right that Piers Morgan is ridiculous to say that Gridlockgate is worse than Watergate, though may I say that if Christie does become president, I’d support arbitrary executive action to revoke Morgan’s visa and deport him.  (Actually by now I’m guessing CNN’s management might secretly support this, too, to save them further embarrassment and slumping ratings.)  But I do think this scandal has more political traction with the public than the IRS scandal.  Not that it should—quite the opposite; just that is does.  The acts of Christie’s minions seem petty and affecting mostly blameless citizens; they don’t even rise to the Nixonian standard of going directly after your enemies.  The public, as I said on NRO, seems forgiving of foreign policy scandals, especially when the president takes responsibility and admits mistakes (see: JFK and Bay of Pigs, Reagan and Iran-Contra).

Christie’s impressive press conference performance yesterday may yet be a domestic policy equivalent of JFK’s Bay of Pigs.  Lisa Schiffren thinks so.  My worry is larger.

The single most important problem in government today is not found in any single issue, but in the overall arbitrariness—not to say lawlessness—of administrative government.  Obamacare is just one symptom, as is the EPA’s drive to kill coal and institute global warming regulation without any congressional authorization.  What is most needed is a presidential campaign that can explain this problem in a simple and compelling way to the American people, and then the ability to follow up on reforming it fundamentally once in office.  That’s a large order.  Christie’s ability to make this kind of argument is compromised, as he’s handed his enemies a cheap retort.

(Though, as an aside, Christie might want to summon up his typical moxie and point out that liberals try to make traffic worse for everyone everywhere every day as a matter of deliberate policy, with their fetish for bike lanes, HOV lanes, rail lines that no one rides, and opposition to building new roads.)

But is Christie inclined to make this kind of necessary argument?  Here’s where I’ve had my doubts all along.  His background as a prosecutor probably inclines him to like administrative government.  I’m not sure he even appreciates the problem in its fullness (though, to be fair, not many Republicans do).  My guess is the next big problem for Christie won’t come from TrafficConeGate, but from some opposition researcher or journalist who digs through his prosecutorial record to find—or distort—examples of abuse of discretion, heavy-handed tactics against marginal defendants, etc.

Meanwhile, from Facebook friend John Bicknell, enjoy this:

With Apologies to the Kingston Trio…

Well, let me tell you of the story of a man named Christie
On a windy New Jersey day
He put french fries in his pocket, kissed his wife and family
Tried to drive over to Fort Lee

Well, did he ever shut up?
No he never shut up and he’s still in the Q&A
We may ride forever through the streets of Jersey
‘Cause of the man who shut down the lanes

Christie fired the guilty and responded to questions
For what seemed an eternity
When he said he was sorry, Sokolich told him, “stay in Trenton”
Don’t you come to dear old Fort Lee

But did he ever shut up?
No he never shut up and we don’t know who to blame
We may ride forever through the streets of Jersey
‘Cause of the man who shut down the lanes

Now, all day long Christie fielded questions
Crying, “What about 2016?
How can I run for the presidency
When I can’t even drive to Fort Lee?”

But did he ever shut up?
No he never shut up though his aides are out of work
We may ride forever through the streets of Jersey
‘Cause the lanes were closed by a jerk.

Christie’s wife goes down to the old press conference
Every day at quarter past two
Past crowds of reporters she hands Chris a sandwich
And a River Horse Oatmeal or two

But did he ever shut up?
No he never shut up and the mike is open yet
We may drive forever through the streets of Jersey
To pay off Bridget Kelley’s debt

Now, ye citizens of Jersey
Don’t you think it’s a scandal
How the people have to sit and wait?
Open the lanes and end the press conference
Get poor Christie off to old Fort Lee

Or else he’ll never shut up
No he’ll never shut up and we’ll find him at the fridge
We may drive forever through the streets of Jersey
Never reaching the GW Bridge.

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