CORPORATE CULTURE WILL CRUSH CHRIS CHRISTIE’S CHANCES

Last week’s most inescapable story involved New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and the unfolding scandal dubbed ‘Bridgegate’.

How could anyone miss it? Christie hosted a 108-minute press conference to answer and exhaust a hungry press corps. That was likely the longest press conference anyone could remember dating back at least a half-century. Hell, America had a shorter press conference to announce the end of World War II.

Bridgegate will ensure that the rotund governor from the State of New Jersey will never see the inside of the Oval Office, that is, unless a sitting president invites him over for a drink or a meeting.

Why?

Some believe that Christie will survive this disaster and after all, 2016 is a lifetime away. NBC’s Chuck Todd almost put his finger on the answer. The left-leaning Todd said that Christie’s press conference made him look like “just another politician.” Before going further, I want to note that Todd’s statement about what constitutes “business as usual” is a terrible truth about the reality of what passes for “politics” inside the Washington Beltway these days. But there are bigger truths that Christie can never overcome.

And that is this: Christie is the leader of one of the largest states in the country—one that sits right next to New York City and is considered to be very strategic for a host of reasons. Christie is finished because he is stuck in a Catch-22 that will bury him no matter what happens from here.

What Catch 22? One of the following has to be true, and either way, it spells doom for the New Jersey Governor:

1. Everything he said in his press conference was the truth. He had no knowledge of anything before he saw it on cable television the morning before his press conference [right after he had his workout].

2. Christie is lying: He knew something that we will eventually find out. Nixon showed us four decades ago that the truth always comes out, no matter what. You can’t erase the truth like some tape. There are now permanent paper trails, thanks to today’s technology. Even without a smoking gun, we have yet to hear from all of the people who surround Christie—-particularly the insiders he fired.

Which of the above is more likely? #2, but even if he knew nothing until the day before his press conference, it is difficult to believe that he knew absolutely nothing about the Bridge-related events—and this excuse does not pass the smell test. Christie—prior to this crisis—has been a no-nonsense, rude, but very strong leader (Hurricane Sandy showed us that). This is a guy who runs a ship as tight as any in the country which explains, at least in part, why he just won re-election in a landslide. His culture is “do it my way or I will cut you to pieces” (or stop traffic so that it backs up into your town). That was the culture he fostered over months and years. I have always asserted in all of the books I have authored, especially the Jack Welch books, that culture is something that takes months and years to build, not days or weeks. It is almost impossible to fathom that people under Christie’s leadership would do something that is not in accordance with the thinking and method-of-operation of this hard-charging leader.

And that is why Christie is finished.

Because both #1 and #2 above are career-ending realities. Either he was a clueless putz or he promoted this type of petty, dangerous politics. Think about it for a moment: If you are working for a boss who has a tight reign over his or her department, chances are you spend your day thinking how to “please the boss.” I have had tough, but good bosses and that was the way I always viewed my job. As long as I was never asked to compromise my values then the boss’s goals came first— Even before my own. So that means that the people under Chris Christie felt like they had a green light (pardon the pun) in doing what they did. And that is why Christie deserves to be finished. Bridgegate wreaked havoc on thousands and thousands of people each day lanes were closed on the George Washington Bridge, ostensibly due to some mythical traffic study. People were late for work, kids never got to school, and most important, first responders could not get to the people who needed them.

There is the story of the 91-year-old woman who died before the ambulance could ever get to her. The woman’s daughter said that it was her time to go. But what about the stories we have yet to hear? I believe that this will eventually lead to criminal prosecution and the end of any chance Christie had to become the 45th president of the United States. [His chances were never that good, in any event: his bullying-antics would play poorly in states like Iowa and South Carolina.]

Perhaps history will show this to be a watershed moment that revealed the feet of clay of someone who had a chance to be leader of the free world. Better to know now, while stuck in traffic, before the same person responsible for that traffic practices his dangerous tactics on a worldwide scale.

—Jeffrey Krames, January 12/13, 2014

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