Skip to main content

The problem with anointed leaders and why Chris Christie is not the one for 2016

Written By | Jan 14, 2014

By Jennifer Oliver O’Connell, As the Girl Turns, (Twitter: @asthegirlturns)

LOS ANGELES, January 10, 2014—New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Bridgegate is fascinating, not only in the coverage, but in seeing a leader “anointed”” by the media and the Republican establishment come under fire for being what he is—a take-no-prisoners politician.

After Christie’s nearly two-hour presser today, the news coverage from left- and right-leaning media has been one-part investigative reporting, one-part gossip, and two-parts opinion. Some outlets are already saying Christie’s presidential aspirations (which he denies) are all but finished. Fox News, a rather transparent promoter of the governor, asks the question, “Is Chris Christie political road kill?” Other outlets are saying how Christie handles this could be what burnishes his presidential credentials. The Christian Science Monitor speculates on whether this press conference will save Christie’s future: “The episode is ‘definitely a mark against him, but on the flip side it’s the first true test of whether he’s ready for prime time in a 2016 run,’ says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. ‘Lord knows what Democratic trackers will pop up against him. But right now, he’s saying and doing the right thing.’”

This we do know: no one has a crystal ball, nor do they know what will happen in two years when the presidential primaries are in full swing. As we have found with the Benghazi and IRS scandals, not to mention Obamacare, the media has a short attention span.

This could be the tip of the iceberg of problems in the Christie administration, or it could be a nothing-burger.  Only time will tell. What is more telling is the anointing that occurs with certain politicians when we have little evidence of their proven leadership. We are reaping the whirlwind from 52 percent of Americans using this logic (twice) in electing Barack Obama as President. In 2008, candidate Obama sailed to national prominence on the power of his words, with little regard to the substance of his record. The plethora of scandals now plaguing President Obama, as well as the crises in foreign policy of which this administration is fully entrenched, is an indictment on the foolishness of this approach.

Here are the reasons why Christie is not “The One” for 2016, and what it tells us about our penchant to anoint individuals like him as such:

Bullies make great theater, but not so much great leaders. Gov. Christie’s bullish style is well known, and has been soundbite and YouTube fodder since his first term as New Jersey governor. Do we elect one as a President? Haven’t seen it in this—or the last—century. Of late, Christie has been attempting to re-craft “the bully” into “the statesman”, with mixed results. High-level staffers mirror their leader, and his staffers were definitely steamrollers in this affair. Despite his protestations to the contrary at this morning’s press conference, this scandal reinforces the bully aspect of the Christie leadership style.

You cannot eat your own. Christie’s willingness and in some ways, pleasure in attacking conservatives and the Tea Party is troubling. Any leader who wishes to win votes should be more intent on unifying his or her party’s diverse elements rather than dismissing and denigrating the one’s with whom he or she disagrees. Then Senator Barack Obama gained momentum in 2008 by (falsely) crafting himself as being a unifier who was above politics; so whether sincere or not, it does works.

Before he gets the national nod, Christie has to pass through the primaries. He will get nowhere without the conservative and Republican base. Sen. John McCain’s and Gov. Mitt Romney’s losses were in no small part due to the fact that the Republican and conservative bases stayed home. The Republican Party needs a lesson on this as well if they expect to win another national election.

It’s all about Him. A nearly two-hour press conference is a nakedly-calculated indicator of someone who likes to hear himself talk. In his remarks, Christie said, “This morning I’ve terminated the employment of Bridget Kelly, effective immediately. I’ve terminated her employment because she lied to me.” (emphasis mine). Not because she was instrumental in violating the trust of New Jersey citizens. Not because she was part-and-parcel of what caused a woman’s death. Not because she abused her power, but because “she lied to me.” It is also troubling that Christie used “I” over 6,500 times during this presser, as though he is the only party affected by this scandal.

Christie’s vision of his own self-importance is evident here. Perhaps that has been proven by the media feeding frenzy, or perhaps it just means he thinks a bit too highly of himself and his importance on the national stage. Either way, it is not what we need in a leader.

While certain outlets are worth reading and noting concerning their position on national politics and political leaders, it is wearisome to watch the building up and tearing down of candidates and potential candidates on particular whims like their supposed electability. It is unfair to the highly-engaged voter as well as the low-information one, because it exempts these voters from becoming truly informed about a particular candidate or from investigating whether a candidate truly does represent their wishes. Civics and the importance of being engaged citizens used to be taught from grade school on. Instead, we have abdicated our critical thinking and authority to glossy talking heads and a highly paid political class who only care about their next job—not what truly matters to the American people.

If we keep down this road, we will only serve to further disaffect thinking voters, keep losing national elections, and continue to perpetuate the myth that the individual American and his or her voice has no power.

Jennifer Oliver OConnell

Jennifer Oliver OConnell offers witty, insightful, and direct opinion, analysis and musings on local and national politics and popular culture, with occasional detours into reinvention, food, and Yoga. Jennifer also teaches Yoga, and coaches clients on careers and reinvention. You can keep up with what's in Jennifer's orbit through her As the Girl Turns website.