Quick Take: Is Chris Christie scandal just politics as usual?
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been heavily criticized in the past month because a member of his staff closed lanes on the George Washington Bridge to allegedly seek revenge on a Democratic mayor. While there is no evidence that proves Christie’s involvement, many find it hard to believe he was kept in the dark. Is this scandal an outlier, or is it just a routine part of American political culture?
Christie scandal could have been predicted
by Nathaniel Cohen
As far as political scandals go, Chris Christie’s “Bridgegate” is relatively unremarkable considering Christie’s standards and the standards of American politicians in general. Christie’s behavior is not what Americans hope to see out of their representatives, but anyone who has paid attention to his time in the spotlight should not be surprised.
While Christie may claim that he is “not a bully,” his history portrays him as the Nelson Muntz of New Jersey. In one exchange during a New Jersey Town Hall meeting, a school teacher asked Christie about a cut in the education budget and he responded by humiliating her and posting the confrontation on YouTube. In another example, Christie berated a journalist for asking an off-topic question at a press conference. My personal favorite is when Christie just yelled at some random guy on the Jersey Shore boardwalk.
His vindictive rap sheet toward his political colleagues is equally concerning. Alan Rosenthal, the late Rutgers political scientist, had the funding from his Rutgers fellowship programs slashed after refusing to side with Christie and Republicans on a redistricting issue. Sean Kean, a Republican in the New Jersey Senate, criticized Christie for mishandling a state of emergency in 2010 and shortly after had his invitation to a Christie event revoked, even though it was in Kean’s own district. This pattern of bullying and vindication should be expected by this point. “Bridgegate” is a classic example of Christie’s petty politics and there will be much more to come.
An important question to ask while judging this incident is how it stacks up against other political scandals in this day and age. To answer this, we must consider the impact of this scandal on the average citizen. In this case, a high-ranking member of Christie’s staff ordered traffic problems to prevent students from getting to school, people from getting to work and at least one woman from remaining alive.
However, Eliot Spitzer cheated on his wife. So did David Petraeus, Anthony Weiner and Mark Sanford. Trey Radel bought cocaine. Jesse Jackson, Jr. misused campaign funds. PRISM happened and so did Chelsea Manning, Scooter Libby, Jack Abramoff, Benghazi and the granddaddy of them all: Watergate. Unfortunately, in today’s day and age, Christie’s abuse of power is unremarkable.
Nathaniel Cohen is a sophomore in the School of the Public Affairs.
Christie scandal does not represent all politicians
By Rathna Muralidharan
Today the general public is more surprised when our representatives perform their duties than when they get caught in a political scandal. As soon as a government official with decent motives emerges, we become instantly suspicious and start looking for a chink in his or her armor. Is our cynical attitude caused by their selfish motives or do we have unreasonable expectations?
Petty rivalries and acts of revenge have always existed in politics and they always will. But to instantly claim all politicians are motivated by the same greedy goals is a gross overstatement. There are many representatives who want to rightfully serve their constituents, but our expectations are raised to a point where they are inevitably doomed to fail.
As a nation with a representative democracy we have the right to expect our leaders will not abuse their position. But at the same time, we must remember that they too are human and have flaws. We must understand that our representatives are not gods, and that setting overly high expectations for them sets them up to fail us.
Yes, Chris Christie’s administration was wrong to retaliate against a Democratic mayor by intentionally causing traffic. But for the general public to assume that such pettiness is expected in all our officials is wrong. There are many representatives fighting against such ridiculous retaliations, trying to better their country and the lives of those they serve.
If we wish for the system to change, then we must change it. We are the ones who vote. If we don’t believe they are fit to perform the job in a respectful manner, then it is our duty to elect someone else. Politics is a nasty business, but it is one that we can make better by choosing candidates worthy of influence. Other than that all we can do is have faith that they will perform the job correctly.
Rathna Muralidharan is a freshman in the School of International Service.
Christie proves political scandals are status quo in American politics
by Madison Freeman
The stereotypical American politician is corrupt, self-serving and untrustworthy. This has long been ingrained into our culture. Unfortunately this stereotype is constantly reaffirmed as new scandals emerge, further weathering the credibility of those who represent American citizens.
One does not need to look very to find recent political scandals. In 2008, Rod Blagojevich, governor of Illinois, attempted to sell Barack Obama’s former Senate seat. Anthony Weiner, then a U.S. Congressman, was caught soliciting sexual messages online in 2011 and again in 2013. The scandals cost him his seat in the House and his campaign for mayor of New York. Martha Johnson, head of the General Services Administration, resigned after it was made public that the GSA spent $822,000 on a lavish training conference for employees in Las Vegas.
Chris Christie’s (still unproven) involvement in the creation of traffic on the George Washington Bridge is very disappointing behavior for a generally well-respected governor. However, such behavior is not out of character for Christie, who is known for his aggressive tactics. He is also known for his bipartisan appeal, but has been losing support as the scandal has marred his public image.
Christie’s latest bullying tactic comes with criticism from the public, but his errors are not irregular for a man in his position. This event may be saddening for those who supported Christie and believed he was an upstanding public servant, but it is not surprising. His betrayal of public trust appears to be symptomatic of a greater endemic problem among politicians. History is indeed repeating itself, and this event is merely the tip of a much larger iceberg of inappropriate behavior. The American public remains distrustful of their representatives, embittered by continuous revelations of deception.
If the allegations against Christie are true, Christie’s political reputation may be irreparable. On the other hand it’s possible the American public has become used to political sin and will forgive Christie as a result. Either way, this unacceptable behavior is not a deviation from the norm. American politics are, and have historically been, riddled with corruption and scandal.
Madison Freeman is a freshman in the School of International Service.