Hopefully, this is a “teachable moment” for voters, too.
Now that we have your attention, allow us to explain. Governor Chris Christie apologized to New Jersey on Thursday for aides who closed traffic lanes in order to punish a Democratic mayor, and he fired a deputy chief of staff. We mention the IRS because Mr. Christie’s contrition contrasts so sharply with President Obama’s handling of the tax agency’s abuse of political opponents and his reluctance to fire anyone other than a military general for anything.
In his long press conference in Trenton, Mr. Christie was properly contrite, saying he had been “lied to” by the senior aide he proceeded to fire. He also said he is withdrawing his support for his former campaign manager to run the state Republican Party because the man had shown “callous and indifferent” behavior toward the people inconvenienced by the traffic-lane closures. If Mr. Christie really didn’t know about this cheap exercise in political payback, and nothing new emerges, the incident shouldn’t interfere with the Governor’s expected presidential run.
That doesn’t mean Mr. Christie shouldn’t learn from the experience. One lesson is that he’s going to have to upgrade the quality of his advisers as he moves onto the national scene. The traffic-lane-as-vendetta ploy is so dumb and petty that anyone who would attempt it isn’t ready for prime time. Never mind putting it in email.
Mitt Romney was supposed to be a crack manager, but he surrounded himself with campaign lightweights and he suffered for it. One of Mr. Christie’s selling points for the White House will be that he is an executive who has run a sizable state, so the media will descend on Trenton even more than it did on Wasilla, Alaska, for Sarah Palin. Better to clean out the hack loyalists now.
Which brings us to the Obama Administration, which quickly leaked to the media that the U.S. Attorney is investigating the lane closures as a criminal matter. Well, that sure was fast, and nice of Eric Holder’s Justice Department to show its typical discretion when investigating political opponents.
This is the same Administration that won’t tell Congress what resources it is devoting to the IRS probe, and appears to be slow-rolling it. It has also doubled down by expanding the political vetting of 501(c)(4) groups seeking tax-exempt status. Lois Lerner, who ran the IRS tax-exempt shop and took the Fifth before Congress, was allowed to “retire,” presumably with a pension. Acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller resigned under pressure but no other heads have rolled. Yet compared to using the IRS against political opponents during an election campaign, closing traffic lanes for four days is jaywalking.
We raise this mostly because our media friends have been complicit in dismissing the IRS abuses, and for that matter every other legal abuse during the Obama years. The exception is the Edward Snowden theft of National Security Agency documents, which so far have exposed not a single example of law-breaking.
Not that this should make Mr. Christie or any other potential GOP candidate complacent. Republicans operate under a double media standard that holds them to a much lower scandal threshold. In that sense the pathetic New Jersey traffic-lane scandal may be, as Mr. Obama likes to say, a teachable moment.