Christie’s “Staff Problem” Sadly Is Nothing New

January 9th, 2014

In a press conference earlier today, Governor Chris Christie said he was “embarrassed and humiliated” by the behavior of members of his staff who evidently orchestrated a traffic crisis in Fort Lee, New Jersey, apparently as a vendetta against the Democrat mayor there who refused to endorse Christie for reelection.

While some people (including the Governor it seems) are shocked and outraged by this behavior, I can personally say that I’m not completely surprised.

I spent several years working in politics in various positions.  While I didn’t enter that world completely naïve, I would say that I began my journey with a high minded optimism about how things should work that quickly soured by what I sometimes saw.

For the record, not everything is awful and horrible. There are indeed many people involved in government who participate with the patriotic fervor of Thomas Jefferson Smith in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.  Unfortunately, the longer these people stay active in politics, however, it seems one of two things happens to them.  Over time they either become incredibly cynical by everything they see around them that they’re a downer to invite for dinner or they simply quit.

The “political” problem in government seems to occur mostly among two distinct groups who appear to comprise a significant percentage of the staffs of elected government officials.  They tend to either be people who make careers out of mostly working for elected government officials or political hacks who work on campaigns until they finally land in the office of a newly elected individual.

This latter group is particularly troublesome because they tend to be people who really get their juices going more by being overtly political than by actually working nine to five in some government office.

As Governor Christie pointed out in his press conference today, politics is an inherently ugly business.  It can be mean and vicious and there is often a take no prisoners edge to it.  That may explain the email exchange in the Christie affair where one person initially expresses some remorse that little children suffered on school buses in traffic as a result of these actions but then concludes essentially “no worries” because “[t]hey are the children of Buono voters.”

Unfortunately, in my political travels I met quite a few of these kinds of people.  For whatever reason, it seems that many of them either never matured past about fourteen or fifteen years of age so they continually carry the values and behaviors featured in many middle and high schools into their adult professional lives or they are just genetically engineered to act like the mutant child of Eddie Haskell and Batman’s Joker.

Now before I hear from a lot of people who fear I must be talking about them, let me emphasize again that not everyone is like this.  I’ve met great people in politics.  Also, I’m not pointing the finger just at Republicans because Democrats are the same. Given that we’re all human, there are bound to be bad apples in both barrels.

In my humble opinion, just because politics can be nasty and bad doesn’t mean it necessarily has to be.  Today, Governor Christie announced he’d fired those involved and called for investigation to weed out any other bad actors.  Let’s hope he gets to the bottom of this and thoroughly cleans house in Trenton.

Christie called the actions of his staff “abject stupidity.”  It was clearly that.  It was also very wrong.