Steve Chapman

A worse possibility is that Christie was not exactly heedless of such behavior but encouraged it. Given his fervent denials, it's hard to believe evidence will emerge that he approved the lane closing. But it's also hard to believe that his aides went rogue, doing things they knew he would abhor. Christie doesn't seem like the kind of boss whose tolerance for mischief you would want to test.

They have some reason to think he's happy to seek revenge on political opponents. Journalists have documented numerous acts of retribution -- such as stripping funding for a Rutgers professor who, as a member of a redistricting commission, voted against a plan the governor wanted. Christie does not have a thick skin when it comes to dissent.

He often gives the impression that the authority granted him by voters is his to use however vigorously and aggressively he sees fit. Elected officials ought to treat it as a conditional loan, to be exercised with great care and humility. Christie's full-throttle approach encourages abuse.

It's our good fortune that modern technology makes it easier to document such abuse, at least when committed by people too careless to take obvious precautions.

Had Christie's deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, whispered, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" to Port Authority official David Wildstein as they sat in a Starbucks, she'd still have her job. If he had chortled over kids being late to school on a stroll with a colleague, his amusement would be lost to history.

A wise citizenry would take this episode as a warning about the dangers of ceding control over our lives to the government. Anytime someone wants to expand some power of government, here's what you should assume: Kelly and Wildstein will be the ones exercising it.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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