A pair of once high-rising politicians has experienced a precipitous fall of late. One, former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, was indicted for improperly accepting thousands of dollars in gifts from a supporter who sought his help. The other, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, is embroiled in a scandal that involves the alleged abuse of his office to punish his political adversaries.
First, let’s talk about the newly indicted former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. Per MSNBC:
Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were charged in federal court on Tuesday for allegedly taking tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of gifts while in office from a supporter who sought help from the state government.
McDonnell held a press conference with his wife and one of his daughters by his side on Tuesday evening, insisting he was “falsely and wrongly accused.”
During his final State of the Commonwealth address earlier this month, McDonnell – who repaid the money and returned the gifts – apologized for the “problems and pain I’ve caused this past year.” Some of the gifts allegedly included a $6,500 Rolex watch, $10,000 worth of Oscar de la Renta clothing and $15,000 for his daughter’s wedding expenses.
The “supporter” referenced in the report is Jonnie Williams, a former chief executive of the diet supplement company Star Scientific, Inc.
McDonnell defended his decision to accept the gifts by saying he believed they were made out of Williams’s “personal generosity and friendship” and not in any attempt to curry favor. He knows better. When you are a public official there really is no such thing as an innocent gesture of “personal generosity” – at least so far as the public is concerned. Even the appearance of impropriety in these situations is reason enough to say “no, thank you.”
However, in this case, this gesture of “personal generosity” was evidently accompanied by a gesture in turn by the former Governor to persuade universities to study the efficacy of Star Scientific products, according to the fourteen-count indictment. So it’s a hard argument to buy that the Rolex watch did not come with any strings attached, even if merely implied ones.
Now, with respect to Governor Christie, you can check out this excellent summary by the Washington Post to get all of the details related to what is now being referred to as “Bridgegate.” Here’s the deal in a nutshell, courtesy of the Post:
Last September, the Port Authority announced a traffic study would shut down two lanes of the George Washington Bridge. Massive traffic jams ensued in Fort Lee, the town connected to New York City via the bridge. Reporting by The Wall Street Journal and the Bergen Record revealed that the traffic delays might have had a somewhat more sinister origin. Fort Lee’s mayor, Democrat Mark Sokolich, failed to endorse Christie prior to November’s gubernatorial election. Christie still won by 22 percent, but his deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly still thought it wise to email Port Authority and tell them it was “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” It’s not clear what the lane closures were payback for, but judging from Kelly’s tone, they were payback for something.
Christie maintained from the outset that there was nothing political about the bridge closing and defended his staff. It was all part of the aforementioned traffic study. However, the emails suggest a different and disturbing story.
(In a second emerging scandal, it is alleged that Governor Christie’s office also withheld Hurricane Sandy relief from the City of Hoboken for political reasons. Hoboken is a heavily Democratic district.)
Now, does closing a bridge and creating a traffic jam rise to the level of, say, using the Internal Revenue Service to kill off the Tea Party for political payback (as the evidence suggests the Obama administration has done)?
Likewise, in the case of McDonnell, does accepting a Rolex watch, allegedly in exchange for urging a university study, rise to the same level of, say, the extortion and favors for donors in Obama’s multi-billion dollar Solyndra and green energy scandals?
Not even in the same zip code.
The fact that the corrupt Obama Justice Department indicted McDonnell and his wife – and is pursuing Christie like a bird dog – does not inspire confidence in its fair administration of justice. Where are the IRS indictments? Fast and Furious? Voter fraud?
Both Christie and McDonnell have been considered political stars on the rise, suitable candidates to one day occupy the White House, perhaps as soon as 2016. Voters will now wonder if they cannot be trusted with the responsibility of power in the governor’s mansion – and this is still a big “if” as these investigations are ongoing – what happens should they get to the Oval Office?
Look no further than our current presidential administration for answers to that question. The Obama White House has embraced “The Chicago Way” that characterized President Obama’s rise to power and jacked it up on steroids, putting our country, our Constitution, and our way of life at risk.