The Bullying Pulpit

I was asked, probably in jest, to write an addendum to my recent blog: “Dos and Don’ts, the Primary Edition.”

In that one from February 3, I took Donald Trump to task, and a reader wondered if could do the same for Chris Christie—or to Chris Christie? (Once I looked up the meaning of addendum, I was ready to go.)

All any of us really need to know about Mr. Christie is that he used New Jersey public service workers to disrupt and jeopardize an entire city to satisfy his appetite for vengeance. We all know the details—a slight from Fort Lee’s mayor and political payback in the form of phony lane closings to the George Washington Bridge which effectively shut down the city for a day. Funny stuff, eh?

It was the act of a bully, and a peculiarly nasty and dangerous bully at that.

Now Trump’s threat evolves out of the missing filter between his brain and his mouth. People admire him because he says what he thinks. Of course so do most two-year-olds: we don’t elect them president.

Ted Cruz is dangerous because he wants to lead the country forward by standing still. His only plan is to win and hope for the best.

But Chris Christie is dangerous because he’s ignorant of so much and that fact doesn’t concern him. So far in this primary season he has

a) promised to work with King Hussein of Jordan to fight against ISIS. (King Hussein died in 1999.)

b) vowed to shoot down any Russian plane that violated his proposed Syrian no-fly zone. You may also remember Rand Paul’s retort: “Well, I think if you’re in favor of World War III, you have your candidate.”

c) threatened major cuts in Social Security benefits. If there’s one thing Americans of all parties and ages hold sacrosanct, it’s Social Security.

d) alienated himself from the young progressives (to whom he claims to speak) by promising to reverse recent efforts to decriminalize marijuana.

e) vowed to get Iraqi forces out of Yemen. Iraq has enough to worry about without becoming involved in Yemen.

f) bullied a worried young girl who asked what he was doing about the damage all over New Jersey from last month’s blizzard. (She was receiving grim pictures from family members.) He said,” : ‘All over the state?’ Really? There’s been one county that’s flooded, one county, Cape May County, so I don’t know where you’re getting ‘from all over the state,’ since we have 21 counties where that’s happened. Um, second, I don’t see co… what you expect me to do, you want me to go down there with a mop? (Empathy is, apparently, overrated.)

g) blamed a mother and her one-year-old child for dying of carbon monoxide poisoning because they weren’t smart enough to clear the snow from their tailpipe. Notice how he interrupts their “eulogy” to have some fun with “Jennifer.”

Look, I’m a democrat, a liberal, a progressive, whatever, so I’m coming at this from a certain perspective. But while I find other candidates goofy or foolish, I see an opportunistic insensitivity in Christie, a sense of privilege that makes it okay for him to take federal aid in the aftermath of Sandy, then refer to the president who provided it as a feckless weakling three years later.

Yes, it’s politics. But a bully is still a bully. And nastiness never plays very well, no matter the venue.

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