Accountability in New Jersey, not D.C.


The national media are advancing on New Jersey, drawn by the smell of Republican blood. Gov. Chris Christie’s administration indeed was behind “Bridgegate,” and for that, the presidential hopeful must provide a full accounting.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Christie’s flogging: heads rolled.

Granted, the Thursday canning of Christie’s deputy chief of staff, Bridget Ann Kelly, was an easy call. She sent emails effectively ordering lane closures on the approach to the George Washington Bridge, which snarled traffic in Fort Lee. Kelly did so to punish the town’s Democratic mayor for not endorsing Christie’s re-election. Christie said he wasn’t behind the action and that he was lied to.

Three others close to Christie were cut loose. His campaign manager and adviser, who wrote emails reflecting joy over the chaos in Fort Lee, got the ax. And two Port Authority appointees, including one who was a Christie high school classmate, resigned. Once state, federal and media investigations are complete, more people might lose their jobs.

But the swiftness of Christie’s action just as the press feeding frenzy was getting started provided a stark contrast to what’s happened over the past few years in the country’s traditional center of the media universe. In Washington, where incompetence, political retribution, outright lies and potentially criminal persecution with far greater consequences than a traffic jam have gone on for years with barely a tough question from a compliant press corps, everyone responsible gets to keep their jobs.

As National Review Online opined in a December headline, the Obama Cabinet is the one place where Americans can’t be laid off or fired.

Traditionally, a job in a presidential administration amounts to temp work. You put in a few years and move on, if you aren’t first forced out by controversy. And if a president wins re-election, any first-term Cabinet secretaries who are still around are practically expected to quit.

But there’s nothing traditional about the Obama administration. Nearly half of the Cabinet has served since the start of Barack Obama’s presidency. And even though the five-year club includes the most embattled, least effective and least competent members of the Obama administration, there are no indications any of them are being pushed toward the exit. If anything, they’ll be invited to climb aboard Marine One with the Obamas in January 2017.

Kathleen Sebelius is the poster girl for the Peter Principle, the point woman for all things Obamacare. The Health and Human Services secretary oversaw the construction of the least functional, most expensive website in history, helped promote the epic “If you like your plan, you can keep it” lie, and, if Obama is to be believed, never briefed her boss on any of the rollout challenges. What kind of photos does she have locked in her safe? That Sebelius and everyone responsible for the Affordable Care Act debacle still have jobs is nothing short of stunning.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has remained in charge through massive backlogs in claims and consistent charges of substandard care at VA facilities across the nation. Perhaps some new blood would benefit the agency charged with caring for our most vulnerable veterans? Not under Obama.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has done nothing in five years to distinguish himself beyond mocking “white suburban moms” who oppose Common Core standards and find “their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were.” If a Cabinet secretary under a Republican president made a such a racially charged comment, he would be out of a job.

As ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice did the Sunday talk show circuit to deliver the administration’s lies about the Benghazi terrorist attack. That performance made her Obama’s first choice to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. When it was clear that nomination would go nowhere, Obama appointed Rice his national security adviser. You’re hired!

And then there’s U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Any one of the scandals he has survived would have toppled each of his predecessors. The “Fast and Furious” gun-running operation. The surveillance of journalists. A habit of abusing power and overreaching in pursuit of a politically correct dystopia. And he has the president’s full support. Compare his tenure to that of George W. Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who kept the job all of 2½ years before resigning over controversies surrounding surveillance. interrogation techniques and … wait for it … firing appointed prosecutors.

Today, no one in Washington gets fired. The outrage machine is turned off and unplugged when a Democrat is in the White House. The conservative Media Research Center pointed out Friday that in less than 48 hours, ABC, NBC and CBS had devoted 44 times more coverage to Christie’s “Bridgegate” than the networks provided for the IRS targeting of conservative groups over six months. Throw CNN into that mix, and the ratio is probably worse. (The Obama administration arranged a handful of resignations and early retirements over the IRS abuses.)

I’m not saying “Bridgegate” isn’t a story. I’m just saying the next presidential election is more than two years away. If the current president is making a mess of everything and almost no one is being held accountable, isn’t that a bigger story?

Glenn Cook (gcook@reviewjournal.com) is the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s senior editorial writer. Follow him on Twitter: @Glenn_CookNV. Listen to him Mondays at 4 p.m. on “Live and Local with Kevin Wall” on KXNT News Radio, 100.5 FM, 840 AM.