To me, the matter is eerily reminiscent of the IRS scandal involving systematic harassment of conservative individuals and groups in the run-up to the 2012 election. (Indeed, it would be amusing to see how the press would respond were Governor Christie to proffer, verbatim, the same excuses presented by President Obama.)
But whether Governor Christie or President Obama were personally aware of the abuses perpetrated on their behalves is irrelevant. On some level, they set a tone in their administrations that signaled that such hardball would be tolerated, at least tacitly.
Some would say that this is another symptom of the poisonous, personalized partisanship infecting our politics at all levels. Certainly, the targets of the government actors' activities were (as lefty academics love to characterize it) "the other." They were "Tea baggers." Or "Buono voters." Such a contemptuous attitude toward political opponents is ugly and unfortunate -- but people have hated and despised each other for many reasons over the years. Sadly, that isn't new, either.
Yet something about the IRS scandal and this bridge problem does seem new, and profoundly troubling. Yes, politicians may have always played hardball with each other for one reason or another. Now, however, there seems to be a new willingness to do it by using innocent "civilian" Americans as their pawns.
The IRS pursued the president's political interests completely unaware of—or indifferent to— the expense, stress and injustice it was visiting on regular Americans who were only doing what we are so frequently exhorted by our politicians to do: "Getting involved." Similarly, at least some members of the Christie Administration were willing to upset and inconvenience regular commuters who were simply trying to commute to work.
All these Americans were seen (to the degree they were taken into consideration at all) as something akin to "collateral damage" in the political warfare the elites were waging among themselves. That's a sign of a political or governing elite that no longer has respect for the citizens it's supposed to represent; one that has forgotten—or no longer believes—that the people are its masters, not its servants.
Such an attitude is the sign of a government that has grown too big and too powerful. It signals a threat to liberty. And it has no place in a healthy, free country.
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