When great men fall, it is a tragedy, not a cartoon melodrama.
That is because a tragedy is usually about self-destruction through doing something — through arrogance, contempt or naivete — that should not be done, a poisonous tendency let loose.
Throwing his gubernatorial weight around seems to have smashed the egg of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s reputation, and it cannot be reinserted in the shell. Nor can he hide behind his aides, or claim ignorance of their bad deeds on his behalf.
Christie’s apparent career suicide can best be understood through the works of two of our finest filmmakers, Orson Welles and Martin Scorsese, both masters of displaying the dangers that doom men who attain great power but never grow up.
In “Citizen Kane,” Charles Foster Kane is disappointed in all his desires because he insists on remaining childish. Scorsese sets “The Wolf of Wall Street,” a contemporary variation on Welles’ 1941 masterpiece, in the decadent, golden grime of men who hustle their way into wealth, telling as many lies as necessary to make profit from clients who trusted them.
Like little boys, they expect that everyone and everything will submit to them because they have attained plateaus of wealth from beginning at the bottom, and, by working very hard, earn a bent version of the American dream — a delusion as decadent and tempting as it can be.
Welles and Scorsese both realized that Americans do not always understand the difference between life itself and the illusions provided by cameras, makeup and special effects. That is a very risky misunderstanding.
As Christie said, “Politics is not beanbag.”
That’s true. But politics also is not slipping brass knuckles inside one’s boxing gloves, then self-righteously pretending to have done no such despicable thing.
Me first, says the gov, but me never wrong, me only betrayed by my chosen inner circle, a stupid and deceptive pack of liars.
In politics, as in business, playing fair helps one to prevail. Being transparent is more effective than trying to keep the water black, so that the fish do not see the hook.
There’s a saying about how when you darken the water, some of the fish sense trouble — and they light it up, exposing your foul mechanisms. This is what’s happening to Christie now, as he stands exposed.
No matter how many fish have swallowed the hook, dark water can doom anyone, no matter how high up, because American justice might catch the bad guy at the top. It has an impressive record when faced with deception masked by darkness, hiding a crude willingness to remain corrupt.
If you cannot stand too much illumination on your tricks in the upper offices of power, you’d better not sit down. You have been flipped from the ocean to the frying pan to the fire, all begun by deep-sea swimmers.
President Nixon learned how dangerous they can be when Watergate hid a hook that was made clear by deep-sea swimmers from The Washington Post, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. Nixon ruefully found out that before you know it, they will swim up and bite off your toes, and you will never walk easily again. You will fall and be reduced to crawling.
Perhaps Christie will at least learn the lesson now, though his frantic efforts to keep his head above the blue water of the blues suggest he will not.
He’s fighting against the work of stellar reporters like Rachel Maddow because, as in “Citizen Kane” and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” New Jersey’s homemade would-be tough guy seems to have done what he did not have to do, wishing to flex his muscles and show the power and the delusional belief he had in excessive spite.
Simply looking at Christie, you can tell he is greedy. That is no mystery. He wants it all. His slogan remains “Me first.” Others second, if at all. Without a political miracle, Chris Christie is no more than a shooting star now, imploding and falling through the great darkness of his greed, bound for another bottom.