Whenever I think of conservatives in the general sense, I think of a quote by Malcolm Nance. According to Wikipedia, he is “a former US Navy Senior Chief, SERE instructor, and expert in prisoners of war and terrorist hostage survival techniques.” So he’s a serious guy in the arts of war. But after 9/11, he was forced to work with the Bush administration chicken hawks. He derisively referred to them as practicing “Tom Clancy Combat Concepts.” He characterized their attitude, “We’re going to be hard, we’re going to do these things, we’re going to go out and start popping people on the streets and we’re going to start renditioning people.”
Other than racism (which is related), this is the conservative mentality. Liberals have “bleeding hearts” but conservatives think they see the world clearly because of their hearts of stone. This is why every lower class white guy I run into is a Republican. They want to be “tough,” so they vote for the Republicans. But really, the Republicans are not tough in any sense of the word I know. They are simply bellicose. And it isn’t even a real willingness to fight. It is just the rhetoric of strength. Real men don’t feel the need to threaten violence.
That brings us to Chris Christie. He is just the governor of New Jersey. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t really care about him. But he is the ultimate example of the brutish behavior that undergirds the rhetorical appeal of conservatism. You see it throughout the movement. It is evident in Ted Cruz And Allen West. But Christie illustrates what is most important about conservatism: he is a bully.
So it was with some glee that I saw Andrew Prokop’s article in Vox yesterday, If You Dispute Chris Christie’s Budget Estimates, He’ll Go After You—Even if You’re Right. It tells the story of a two year bullying campaign that Christie was engaged in against the highly respected head of the New Jersey Office of Legislative Services (OLS), David Rosen. In 2012, Christie came out with a ridiculous budget that assumed the state would see a totally ridiculous growth rate of 7.4%. Rosen, as part of his job, analyzed the numbers and found that Christie’s budget would be out of balance by many hundreds of millions of dollars.
Christie fired back, going so far as to make a 20 minute long tirade against the OLS chief. He said, “Why would anybody with a functioning brain believe this guy? … How often do you have to be wrong to finally be dismissed?” That is typical Christie rhetoric, which should be familiar to anyone who has ever heard him talk to a teacher. And the attacks continued. Rosen is not a partisan guy; he’s respected by both sides of the isle in New Jersey. But Christie just knows that no one should listen to anyone who disagrees with him.
Well, it is two years later and it turns out that Rosen was completely right about the budget. But don’t expect Christie to apologize. For one thing: that isn’t who Christie is. What’s more, Christie didn’t listen to facts then; why would he listen to them now? And finally, he has Hurricane Sandy to hide behind. He’ll just say that New Jersey didn’t grow at 7.4% because they aren’t stronger than the storm.
What’s interesting is to see how this is typical of the conservative movement: resistant to facts, never admitting wrong, being mean to show how tough you are. It’s all in what Malcolm Nance said above. Most telling of all, it is what our torture program was all about. The FBI was extremely good at interrogation. They knew that torture didn’t work and was generally of negative value. But the conservatives in charge of the government wanted to be “tough” and “hard.” That’s what torture was all about: looking like you were strong with no concern at all about actually being strong. It is the mentality of a bully. That’s half of American politics.