I have been hot and cold with Chris Christie over the years. I have cheered his bold tongue-lashings of union thugs and cringed at his lackluster defense of 2nd Amendment rights. But the New Jersey Governor recently revealed the deepest introspection that I have heard from any leader of late, and I believe that his sentiments deserve notice.
Every objective spectator of American social life recognizes the near-comical level of media bias on display in the recent flap surrounding the intentional New Jersey bridge traffic jam. With the level of attention being paid to this story, you would think that Christie had stranded diplomats under attack in Benghazi. But the Governor’s rejoinder to this petty scandal has been remarkable. And frankly, I did not have Christie on my personal list of president considerations – until now.
The George Washington Bridge spans the Hudson River, connecting New York with New Jersey. This past September, two access lanes of this essential route were closed for days, bringing commuter traffic to a crawl. The commuters from the nearby borough of Fort Lee took the brunt of the logjam.
It recently came to light that Governor Christie’s deputy chief of staff invoked the bridge lane closures with a subtle email to a political ally at the Port Authority. The traffic jam was intended as retribution against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat who endorsed Christie's opponent in the 2013 gubernatorial campaign.
Chris Christie took the podium last week for a press conference that should be held as the example for every chief executive who finds himself in a public crisis. His initial written statement was released on the very day that the Governor learned of the misconduct. Directly addressing the public took a mere 24 hours. Christie’s preparation for the press conference included gaining a comprehensive understanding of the facts and firing the people responsible. His public resolve even prompted those involved at the Port Authority to retain criminal defense attorneys.
The three components of Governor Christie’s press conference that impressed me most were (1) his opening statement, (2) his seizing responsibility, and above all (3) his abject humility. Christie seemed anxious to publicly deliver his initial sentiments with, “I come out here to apologize to the people of New Jersey.” In taking responsibility, he announced the specific consequences in ridding his office of those involved. After the conference, the Governor drove to Fort Lee to personally deliver his apology to Mayor Mark Sokolich.
The Governor stood before the press for an hour and forty minutes, letting them exhaust every question in their role as public investigators for the people of his state. But the humility that seized my attention was when Christie delivered this statement to a tough question: “It makes me ask about me, ‘What did I do wrong to have these folks think it was OK to lie to me?’ And there's a lot of soul-searching that goes around with this. You know, when you're a leader of an organization – and I've had this happen to me before, where I've had folks not tell me the truth about something – not since I've been governor but in previous leadership positions – you always wonder about what you could do differently. And believe me, John, I haven't had a lot of sleep the last two nights, and I've been doing a lot of soul-searching. I'm sick over this. I've worked for the last 12 years in public life developing a reputation for honesty and directness and blunt talk, one that I think is well-deserved. But, you know, when something like this happens, it's appropriate for you to question yourself, and certainly I am. And I am soul-searching on this.”
Christie’s critics from the left will seize the opportunity to kick this prostrate man who has caused them so much anxiety. But compare his humble watershed with the response to the countless scandals of the Democratic Party’s standard bearer. President Obama arrogantly referred to the attention given to the Benghazi, Fast & Furious, and Obamacare failures as an "endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals." Yesterday, after seven months of dragging their feet, the Obama Administration finally appointed someone to investigate the horrific abuses of government taxation power against Tea Party groups. And with an insulting backhand, the President assigned a Democratic political fox, Barbara Bosserman, to watch the IRS henhouse.
The incompetence of this Administration will keep Congressman Darrell Issa’s Oversight and Government Reform Committee in a state of continuous hearings throughout the remainder of the current presidency. Of course, categorizing Barack Obama as a short-sighted, incompetent puppet of George Soros is to generously grant the President the benefit of the doubt. To otherwise assert that Obama knows what he is doing would be far more disparaging.
I am a very conservative consumer of politics, meaning that I look for candidates who will conserve our nation’s original founding principles. So when an east coast politician tosses his hat in the ring, I routinely toss it back out like an undersized fish. But Christie’s proper response in a moment of calamity has my attention. I am still holding on to the stout man’s fedora.