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Monday, February 3, 2014

Christie's Core Incompetency Explains Bridgegate Crisis Mismanagement

Embattled Governor Chris Christie's crisis management problems (or just simply, crisis mismanagement) may stem from his inability to cope with situations where he is not in sole and total control.

The political news media is aghast at how Christie is losing composure in responding to the allegations of former aide/Port Authority appointee David Wildstein last week. However, these sentiments largely ignore or fail to appraise the true nature of Christie's prior jobs.

Chris Christie was New Jersey's United States Attorney for approximately seven years during the Bush Administration. During such time, he built a reputation as a reformer who was tough on political corruption. But crucially, his prosecutorial successes were (or appeared to be) the result of the use of the state's prosecutorial and investigative powers -- in short, the use of leverage provided by the fearsome and mammoth resources of the federal government.

The true test of one's skill, legal acumen and strategic thinking is not measured when one enjoys the steep advantages of having the federal government at your back. Rather, these qualities are best tested when one does not have them at one's disposal and, even more impressive, when one is actually confronting those resources and battling at a huge disadvantage.  It makes one think whether the best lawyers to handle investigations are not the ones who have launched investigations (that is, playing offense), but rather the ones whose clients are the targets (that would be playing defense), and the very best might be the ones who have directly been targeted but who have withstood the pressure in addition to winning on the facts.

Maybe, just maybe, Chris Christie built his career as a one-trick pony, someone who knew only how to throw a punch, but all the while escaping being challenged on his wits, his brains, or his guts. His career does seem awfully short on instances where Christie has been successful when confronting anyone -- and I emphasize, anyone -- who has had the inclination to stand up, take a shot, and then push back.

When Christie is put to the test, when he has to fight and show what he is made of, how smart he is, how strong his case is, how strong the facts are, whether the law is on his side, we don't know how strong Christie is.

Chris Christie is, for all intents and purposes, largely unproven. He is not battle-tested.

And perhaps Chris Christie is not very strong, not the brightest star, just someone who parlayed fundraising connections (of his brother) into a political career in elective office, with eight years as a federal prosecutor only a mirage to create an image of a reformer.

There are plenty of people who get to amazingly high levels in corporate America (and one would assume, also in the public sector) without having their incompetence, neuroses or lack of integrity revealed.

I hate to recycle the common criticism of Christie, but these traits and weaknesses are characteristic of, well, of bullies.

The question we are now seeing is whether Chris Christie can handle even one hard shot in the jaw. Can he even take one punch? The results thus far have not been promising for the formerly presumptive presidential frontrunner.

Perhaps Governor Christie has run into his version of Mike Tyson's Buster Douglas.

His career may not survive if it turns out he is only starting to run a gauntlet of tough punchers.

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