Such was the case today when Christie smacked down the mother of a public school student. The exchange went as follows:
WOMAN: “You don’t send your children to public schools. You send them to private schools, so I was wondering why you think it’s fair to be cutting funding to public schools?”Christie has a point; although he is a public figure, where and how his children are educated is a private matter. It is likewise reasonable for his opponents to infer that his sending his children to private school while advocating public school funding cuts is either elitist or hypocritical. However, the tone and manner of Christie's response -- how he says it, not necessarily what he says -- is the major issue.
GOVERNOR: “Hey Gail, you know what, first of all it’s none of your business. I don’t ask you where you send your kids to school. Don’t bother me where I send mine.”
The temperament, the hotheadness, reveals a major vulnerability. Christie has a thin skin and can be baited into emotional and potentially indiscreet responses and reactions. Although he was the former U.S. Attorney in Newark, it is relevant to note that he was never a "line prosecutor" and never had to work his way up and prove his mettle before judges, juries and adversaries handling trials, motions and appeals. He never has developed the thick skin -- or the confidence -- to cope with criticism or attacks.
In short, he has exposed his own weaknesses... and with little provocation. These are "unforced errors," as they say in tennis. Christie's opponents -- Republicans and Democrats -- now know how to exploit and expose him.
Strategically, this is a huge blunder.
Politically, this is a major Achilles' heel.
Governor Christie needs to show much more emotional intelligence and maturity -- in short, the trait of restraint -- in order to further advance the agenda implied by his rhetoric.
Until then, these traits offer the strongest explanation for why Christie is not running for president in 2012.
Quite frankly, he is not ready.
Eric Dixon is a New York election lawyer who handles crisis management, litigation stress counseling and sensitive legal and political matters for businesses, political candidates, public figures and other clients.