Oh, the travails of the northeastern Republicans. In 1963 it was Nelson Rockefeller's divorce, in 1967 George Romney's "brainwash" comment and much later the strange death of "compassionate conservatism" under George W. Bush. Now it is Chris Christie's self-inflicted wound caused by the ostensibly high-handed attitude of the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J.
Although Christie denies it and one is innocent before proven guilty, the brusque style seems perfectly in character. Also, the nature of the event is consistent with Christie's heavy-handed predilections to get into the face of those constituents who dare to question his judgment or integrity.
But it is judgment that will be measured. His minions give off a Watergate-style odor in their actions. Although these are petty actions, they call into question Christie's style. He was never threatened for re-election, but his people felt the need to punish his opponents in an odious manner. To threaten public safety in order to even the score with a minor official does not raise confidence in Christie. It seems breathtakingly petty and stupid to close down bridge lanes during high peak vacation season because the commuters' children were "Buono supporter" kids.
Again, this abundancy of political overcaution, bordering on paranoia, was displayed by Christie's scheduling of a special senatorial election in mid-October because he feared that Cory Booker would increase Christine Buono's vote. In the end Booker underperformed and New Jersey taxpayers had to foot the bill for a gratuitous election.
This leaving no stone unturned and using a shotgun to kill a fly puts Christie in a tough position. Conservatives, at best, saw him as a winner that was a necessary, if not a desired, candidate. Now they can rightly question his disposition. Like Richard Nixon, Christie cares for himself, not the GOP. After his embrace of President Barack Obama during Hurricane Sandy, conservatives saw him as a self-absorbed agent of professional advancement. In other words, it's all about him.
For Democrats, it is an excuse to abandon Christie as a Republican they vowed to support a little earlier than they would have otherwise. As with John McCain in 2000, Christie satisfies moderate Democrats' never-ending thirst to appear bi-partisan even if they are not truly inclined to be as such. "No labels" usually is a code word for conservative, though not right wing. Christie fulfilled their fantasies even though he never really was going to receive Democratic support in any numbers.
But Christie's minions' assault upon Fort Lee underscores that he is a Republican partisan that sounds reasonable. His assist to Obama proved to be Christie's only bi-partisan act and that was for federal aid. Yet after years of constant pounding of Obama, Christie's extension of an olive branch seemed an act of supreme generosity. In comparison, the governor seemed just what the country said it wanted.
After all the commotion to his admirers, Christie emerged as a politician.
Although his fall is not as damaging as Rockefeller, nevertheless it is a reminder that last year's hero can become this year's heel. How Christie handles this hot grounder will determine his viability for the presidency.