Chris Christie’s problem with personal responsibility

Is Christie’s ethos of personal responsibility proving as fictionalized as the George Washington Bridge traffic study?

All too often, Christie equates leadership with the largest bidder. 

Earlier this month, Chris Christie appeared at CPAC, the notorious get together of gun-wielding conservatives angry about Democrats and their do-gooder progressive policies. Amidst the fully expected, tried-and true rhythm of bashing unions and lambasting women’s rights, Christie billed himself as the “Leader in Chief” of a liberal state tamed by his conservative policies.

“Governors are about getting things done,” Christie said.

Unfortunately, Christie’s ethos of personal responsibility is proving to be as fictionalized as the notion of the traffic study happening on the George Washington Bridge.

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Let’s look at the so-called Bridgegate scandal, which has become the defying moment of Christie’s political career. The New York Times reported that an investigation ordered by Christie himself (conducted by a law firm with close political ties) found that – gasp – Christie had no involvement in the decision to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge.

The internal investigation, which amazingly supports the exact narrative Christie has tried to spin for months, skipped over key figures in the scandal, including Christie’s former deputy chief of staff, Christie’s two top appointees at the Port Authority and Christie’s former campaign manager.

Turns out the buck stops with Christie’s staff. But remind me – is claiming you were completely in the dark about a highly-publicized scheme concocted by your top aides and advisors really the pitch you want to make to voters about why you should be the country’s next president?

I’d say Christie at least showed leadership when it comes to fiscal responsibility, but the $1 million of taxpayer money spent so far on his “comprehensive and exhaustive,” Bridgegate review would seem to speak against that. Considering the fact he spent $12-24 million so he wouldn’t face Booker on a ballot and $25 million to appear in tourism ads during his re-election, being a responsible steward of the people’s money doesn’t seem to fall on Christie’s leadership radar, either.

Neither does taking responsibility. For anything. Ever.

Christie takes every chance he gets in front of a pro-Republican town hall audience to blame the delay in Hurricane Sandy aid on Obama and Washington. He did it again on Tuesday in Belmar, blaming the delay on an “ever expanding federal government.” Oddly, going unmentioned was the firing of Hammerman and Gainer, the politically connected contractor hired by Christie to handle the bulk of the state’s Sandy reconstruction work.

In fact, a Rutgers report blasted Christie’s administration when it comes to Sandy aid, noting that the state’s stunning lack of oversight of contractors, like Hammerman and Gainer, was causing the state to fail in “duty of protecting vulnerable citizens from poor service and taxpayers from wasted funds.”

But since it doesn’t fit the narrative, don’t expect to hear about it from Christie’s lips anytime soon.

In another example of Christie’s stunning ability to lead, under directions of his administration, the Motor Vehicle Commission unilaterally banned electric car startup Tesla from selling cars to its customers. Succumbing to the power of the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers, Christie managed to anger just about everyone, from tree-hugging progressives to free-market conservatives. Christie’s defense? It’s the legislature’s fault for not handing this issue in the assembly, not the $60,000 in donations made to Christie. 

Speaking about the environment, a state appeals court ruled on Tuesday that Christie’s administration broke the law after it told power plants not to worry about rules governing carbon dioxide emissions. Christie’s bold leadership gave a victory to fossil fuel lobbyists back in 2011, when Christie unilaterally decided to pull New Jersey out of a Regional Greenhouse Gas initiative supported by nine other states.

By doing so, he left a large chunk of money on the table – money that could’ve been used to invest in renewable energy sources like solar power and wind, and could’ve been used to expand efficiency programs. But you’re talking about the governor who has stolen nearly $1 billion earmarked for homeowner assistance over the last two years and used it to balance his budget. I don’t think leadership on energy and the environment is how Christie rolls.

And on and on. He cuts promised payments into the pension system, then blames unions for unsustainable benefits. Why are schools bad? Not because of bungle leadership leading to the firing of the state’s schools chief – it’s because of dirty, rotten teachers unions. Plummeting poll numbers? It’s not because of his inability to deliver on his campaign promises – it’s the liberal media looking to take down a Republican (you know, the same guy they’ve proper up for years).

Instead of taking questions from people who disagree with him, he has the cops throw them out of “public” town halls. Instead of building a tunnel that would benefit the state, he lies about killing it so he can raid its funds. He talks about helping towns effected by Sandy while pushing a overpriced contractor because of ties between jim and the company’s lobbyist.

Unfortunately for Christie, volumn does not equal leadership, especially when so many New Jerseyans seem to be pressing the mute button.Rob Tornoe is a cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. Follow Rob on Twitter @RobTornoe

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