Saturday, April 05, 2014

How much slime is too much slime, politically speaking?

By Richard K. Barry

Even though the internal report commissioned by Gov. Christie’s office blamed the entire Bridgegate mess on two former aides, while absolving Christie, anyone paying even scant attention dismissed it as self-serving nonsense. Still, a lot of people don't even pay scant attention, so it might have done Christie some good. I can almost hear low-information voters parroting the results of the report without realizing its origins.

I would, however, like to believe former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell who recently said that “[n]ot only can Chris Christie not win, I think he may have trouble finishing out his term ... There’s absolutely no chance that he didn’t know this was going on if he didn’t order it or OK it. So I think he’s not a factor.”

The more general question is how low a politician has to go before he or she is unelectable. I should, by the way, mention that I live in Toronto (and that's all I'm going to say about that). In any case, I was somewhat heartened to see, as the New York Daily news reported, "Muriel Bowser win the District of Columbia’s Democratic mayoral primary Tuesday, defeating incumbent Vincent Gray in a race defined by a scandal involving Gray’s campaign four years ago."

Bowser tapped into an electorate that tired of the allegations surrounding Gray. Five people who worked on the mayor’s 2010 campaign have pleaded guilty to felonies, and Bowser said the city needed to move away from a mayor who faces potential criminal charges.

So, we know there might be a limit.

In Christie's case, it is not credible that he didn't know about the circumstances surrounding the bridge closure, which means that the only interesting question remaining is whether his actions will dissuade voters from supporting a Christie presidential candidacy.

I was taken by a poll conducted recently finding that "Americans say 75 percent of politicians are corrupted, 70 percent use political power to hurt enemies."

Having lived through the Watergate era, when it was fashionable for some to claim Nixon only got caught doing what they all do, I don't know what to believe. Gov. Rendell is a smart guy; maybe Christie is toxic. I'm not so sure. 

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