Chris Christie and Vladimir Putin: Two Bullies Separated at Birth
Should the world be afraid of bullies?
March 4, 2014
We all have met our share of bullies from kindergarten to school and college, then at work, in other social relationships and even marriages.
In dealing with bullies, people broadly fall into three categories: First, there are those who are truly intimidated and submit. Second, there are those who just ignore the bullies and wait for them to self-destruct. And third, there are those who actually find the bullies’ antics comical, even acceptable or laudable.
They admire the strongmen/women quality of bullies, because they “stand their ground”, “speak their mind” and “won’t be pushed around” by reason.
For those people, no bully’s language can be too blunt and no action too objectionable — as long as the bully shows that he is a “man” (and it usually is a man doing it). Sadly, there are a lot of people in that third category.
And that is the secret why Governor Chris Christie is still very popular in his state, despite his serial disrespect for those who just don’t agree with him.
And several thousand miles away, this is also why Vladimir Putin is still liked by many Russians. Like Christie, he too makes no secret of the fact that he considers any dissenter as weak at their core (he chooses somewhat more hurtful language).
Shutting gas pipelines – and bridges
True, Governor Christie has not yet ordered the National Guard to invade the pesky neighboring state of New York, while Putin has now invaded both Georgia and Ukraine.
True, Governor Christie has not shut off gas supply to reticent former Soviet republics as President Putin did. But he at least enabled his executive team to close down two vital traffic lanes between the city of Fort Lee, New Jersey and the George Washington Bridge to New York City – one of the busiest bridges in the United States.
Why did his team do so? In truly Putin-esque fashion, where the “p” stands for petty, Christie’s team purportedly did so because the Democratic mayor of that city refused to endorse him in his gubernatorial re-election campaign. How dare the mayor?
Like pussycats, so many Democrats from all over the State of New Jersey – witness categories one and three above — had done just that.
True, Governor Christie has not yet gone whole hog — shutting down private media and replacing them with ever so obedient State of New Jersey TV stations, as President – uh, bully buddy — Putin has done in Russia.
But in his 2013 reelection campaign, Christie, the Bully, managed to ridicule, demean and pummel just about anybody who dared to show even a hint of dissent in those endless town hall meetings and press conferences during the campaign.
Putin-like, Christie has made the press his puppet, so much so that the state’s largest newspaper, the New Jersey Star-Ledger, endorsed him before last year’s re-election, a decision it now regrets.
No Pussy Riot in NJ yet
True, Governor Christie has not yet thrown into jail a musical band critical to his regime — as his fellow bully, President Putin, did with the band Pussy Riot.
But American folk hero Bruce Springsteen surely cringes each time when conservative Christie calls him his favorite artist. Not to speak of the suffocating, metaphorical bear hug the Governor gave him recently when he expressed his desire that one day, oh one day the very left-leaning Springsteen would see the light and become his friend.
True, Governor Christie has so far not yet eliminated all political opposition in the State of New Jersey through extortion and other unsavory measures, as President Putin has done. He also has not managed to put any potential adversaries under house arrest – as Putin just did with Alexei Navalny.
But Christie has his ways to get even with people, preferably by pulling the purse strings. Witness, for example, the alleged withholding of federal funds dedicated to repair homes in the city of Hoboken after Hurricane Sandy. The reason? The Democratic mayor of that city opposed a major development program that is dear to the Governor’s heart.
And so, Governor Christie and President Putin have much in common. Putin works with the oligarchs, Christie for the plutocrats. Their tools of ruling are the same. It’s just a question of dimension.
After all, Putin is President of mighty Russia – a job that is equivalent in rank to that of President of the United States, the Washington post Christie had eyed for 2016, but that might now be out of reach for the Governor.
Both Putin and Christie will, however, face the same legacy. All that will be remembered of them will be their thirst for uncontrolled power and their willingness to intimidate all, so they can have it their way.
Even so, with all that power they are failing miserably to promote and improve the economic and social prospects of the people they govern. But the bully twins are doing a great job to protect the shady interests of those who steer both bullies from behind the stage.
Let us just hope that Putin follows in the big, heavy footsteps of his fellow bully Governor Christie in one crucial regard: a highly public act of self-implosion.
Editor’s Note: In the interest of full disclosure, the author belongs to the second category of bully responders.