This is the worst Jersey Shore episode ever — and that is saying something.
But Snooki and The Situation have nothing on the state’s governor.
As lawmakers are prone to do at almost every level of government these days, the New Jersey government was shut down just in time for the July 4th weekend because the competing parties couldn’t reach an agreement on the state’s budget.
That meant shutting down state parks and other services. So if you had a beach weekend planned, you were out of luck.
However, as has been true for centuries, it is good to be king — or, in this case, governor.
Chris Christie has a nice life thanks to the support of the people of New Jersey. Twice he has been elected governor and at one time he enjoyed a great deal of popularity.
His changing attitudes and the fact that he is no longer running for re-election have led him to behave in ways that have erased most of the positive feelings Garden State residents held for him. His approval ratings have recently been hovering around 25 percent — the worst in the nation.
Christie knew that people in his state were being denied access to beaches and other state parks over the holiday weekend. He knew many businesses that rely on those vacationers were being damaged by a political impasse.
But Christie had access to a private beach near his home. He and his family still enjoyed time away at the beach. In fact, a photographer commissioned an airplane to fly overhead and snapped a few photos that have become the vision people see when they imagine Gov. Christie helping with the state’s budget.
As a big guy myself, I don’t want any photos of me at the beach showing up on the front page of a newspaper or being shared across social media platforms.
I think that feeling would be magnified if I were a key part of the problem keeping an entire state’s population from enjoying a holiday weekend.
But Christie said he doesn’t care. He said there is no scandal here. He was photographed with his wife on the beach. If there had been a young blonde on the beach with him, he would consider it a scandal.
That would have made it worse, but it already looked really bad.
The governor didn’t think so.
“I think I have proven over the past 8 years, that I don’t care about political optics,” Christie said. Unfortunately, when you don’t care about political optics, it also shows that you don’t really care about the people who voted for you.
You fail as a leader when you assert a privilege that you have because of the job you were given even though you are doing that job so poorly that others are negatively affected.
Christie’s kids had invited friends to a fun weekend. He said he chose his family over optics. But because he didn’t do his job well enough, the people who pay for him to have the right to choose to use his private beach didn’t enjoy their weekend at all. They couldn’t just put family over politics because Christie and the New Jersey legislature took that choice away.
One of my favorite books is “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek. It is a great book about leadership and team building and why some people can lead well and others fail.
One quote that sticks with me from the book was, “The true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own. Great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead and understand that the true cost of the leadership privilege comes at the expense of self-interest.”
Basically, leadership is everything Chris Christie didn’t do.
Voters have to stop apologizing for the poor judgment of their leaders because of their party affiliation. We need to demand real leadership from all levels of elected officials whether they are Democrats or Republicans.
Only then can we begin to stop acts of hubris like Gov. Christie displayed in New Jersey and many more that play out across America.
— Kent Bush is publisher of Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.