EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

January 11, 2014

Commentary: Arrogance breeds abuse of political power

Chris Christie is a guy you want to like, sometimes despite himself. He’s just made that a lot harder to do.

Take him at his word that he knew nothing about the arrogant abuse of government power to bully a political opponent, creating a public safety risk and inconveniencing thousands of people. Take him at his word on that, and you still have this: He created an environment in which some of his most trusted people thought that was a slick trick. They reveled in it. Until they got caught.

Give Christie this. His apology on Thursday was full-throated. When he said he was “embarrassed and humiliated,” you could feel it. He fired his deputy chief of staff. He didn’t dodge. He asked exactly the right question: “What did I do wrong to have these folks think it was OK to lie to me?”

The pilots and owners of 16 airplanes are still waiting for an apology from former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who abused his power, and stranded their planes, when he ordered bulldozers to carve up the runway at Meigs Field in the middle of the night a decade ago.

Political arrogance tends to be more corrosive than your everyday arrogance because the power of government is so vast.

That’s what struck us here: That people would wield that power with such force, and feel so gleeful about it.

You know the story by now. Aides to Christie created a roadblock in September that caused long traffic backups on Fort Lee, N.J., roads leading to the George Washington Bridge into New York City, to punish a mayor who had refused to endorse Christie’s re-election. Commuters were inconvenienced, but the backups also delayed school buses and emergency responders.

Christie initially said the backups were caused by a legitimate traffic study. But subpoenas issued by state lawmakers turned up a series of electronic messages that confirmed Christie’s government and political operatives had orchestrated the mess, and for a specific purpose.

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