Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Governor and the President

If New Jersey Governor Chris Christie knew about the decision to deliberately snarl traffic in Fort Lee by closing traffic lanes leading onto the George Washington Bridge, and did it, as has been alleged, to punish the Democrat mayor of that town for failing to support him, he should resign. There should be no place in our politics for people who abuse their power to punish political opponents and who demonstrate such callous disregard for innocent people.

Of course, if Gov. Christie should be held accountable for this scandal (and he should), how much more should President Obama be held accountable for his numerous and much more serious abuses and illegalities. What Christie did was unconscionable, but compared to illegally supplying weapons to Mexican drug lords - weapons that were subsequently used in hundreds if not thousands of murders, compared to refusing to boost security for our diplomats in Libya and then lying to the American people about the murders of four of them in Benghazi, compared to illegally using the IRS to punish political opponents, compared to widespread spying on reporters and the American people, compared to allowing the health care website to go online when it clearly wasn't ready after having had five years to develop at enormous expense to taxpayers, what Christie did was, as the Wall Street Journal puts it, mere jaywalking.

But, I can hear someone say, the President claims not to have known about any of these high crimes and misdemeanors. That's true, and maybe he didn't (in which case one must question his competence), but Gov. Christie also makes the same claim and few believe him. Why should Gov. Christie be disbelieved but President Obama be believed?

Jay Leno had it right the other evening when he quipped that "now that Gov. Christie has denied knowing anything about what his subordinates were doing he sounds much more presidential." Christie certainly does sound a lot like President Obama.

Okay, it might be replied, but Gov. Christie recklessly hurt or inconvenienced innocent people in order to punish political foes. Indeed, but closing the Mall to tourists (but not to open-borders demonstrators) was a terrible inconvenience to a lot of people, and surely the inconveniences suffered by many innocent people in Fort Lee are not comparable to the hundreds of deaths at the hands of thugs armed with weapons by our Department of Justice or the dead and wounded diplomats in Benghazi.

Moreover, it was President Obama who famously assured an audience of Latino supporters that he would punish his enemies and reward his friends. It was candidate Obama who threatened his political enemies in 2008 that if they bring a knife to the fight he'll bring a gun.

The willingness of Mr. Christie's aides to punish opponents is repugnant, but it's no more so than the willingness of Mr. Obama's underlings to illegally use the power of the IRS to suppress conservative political groups, or to use the NSA to spy on citizens, or to close, during the government shutdown, public facilities that didn't need to be closed.

There is, however, one significant difference between Gov. Christie and President Obama. Governor Christie fired the person responsible for giving the order to create the chaos in Fort Lee. No one in the Obama administration has been held noticeably accountable for any of the wrongdoing, incompetence, or sheer stupidity that has accompanied Mr. Obama's tenure in office - not Eric Holder, not Kathleen Sebelius, not Hillary Clinton, not Lois Lerhner, not James Clapper - neither them nor any of their subordinates have been cashiered for so poorly serving the American people.

The Obama administration's astonishing record of abuse of power notwithstanding in the twenty four hours after the Christie story broke there was already seventeen times as much media coverage of it than there has been of just the IRS scandal in the six months since it became public. What could account for such a disparity if we assume the media to be comprised of men and women of professional integrity?

Every media and political critic of Gov. Christie's behavior in this sordid episode should be asked a few simple questions: "Are you prepared to heap a proportional measure of criticism upon President Obama for the much more serious malfeasance of his administration? If you're calling for an end to Gov. Christie's political career over this (and, if he's guilty, I join the call) are you prepared to demand the resignation of Barack Obama whose presidency has been far more scandal-ridden and corrupt than Christie's governorship? If not, how do you justify treating the two men differently?"

It seems to me that many of Christie's critics are like a judge who punishes a purse-snatcher with a life sentence while letting Bernie Madoff go free.