The smartest move in politics today is to move against Washington and the two major parties.
Chris Christie may be the smartest man in politics.
Those are two inescapable conclusions from a scan of the morning headlines:
- "Fiscal Cliff deal does little to tame threats from debt ceiling, high unemployment rates," Zachary A. Goldfarb, Washington Post.
- "Fury in G.O.P. As House Stalls Hurricane Aid," Raymond Hernandez, New York Times.
- "More than three in four Americans say the way politics works in Washington is causing serious harm to the country," Susan Page, USA Today.
The failure of the White House and Congress to seriously address the nation's fiscal situation is certain to broaden the belief among many voters that the U.S. political system is broken. The 2016 presidential election is ripe for the emergence of a game-changing political leader who either dramatically reforms one of the existing parties or mounts an independent bid.
Could that explain Christie's rant? The Republican governor of New Jersey with an approval rating topping 70 percent chastised the House Republican leadership on Wednesday for refusing to allow a vote on a Hurricane Sandy relief bill. His extraordinary news conference was a spot-on indictment of the political environment:
He said the game-playing that derailed the relief bill is "why the American people hate Congress; it is why they hate them."
He accused his party's leadership of "selfishness," "duplicity" and moral failure.
He said victims of Sandy in New York and New Jersey were played like pawns in the GOP House "palace intrigue."
"There is no reason at the moment for me to believe anything they tell me," Christie said of the GOP House leadership, specifically Speaker John Boehner, "because they have been telling me stuff for weeks, and they didn't deliver."
You can almost see voters nodding their heads at home: The public's faith in politicians and political institutions has been on a steep and dangerous decline for decades, because elected leaders fail to deliver.
The Democratic Party's reputation is in better shape than the GOP, but that should be of little solace. The approval rating of both parties and Washington in general is anemic.
President Obama failed to achieve a "grand bargain" with the GOP to put the nation's fiscal house in order, and is now facing accusations from the left that he is too soft and capitulates on issues ranging from the budget to Guantanamo Bay.
The fact that Obama is getting criticism from the left and the right might reflect his understanding of the underlying political dynamics.
"Do your job and come through for the people of this country," Christie pointedly told Boehner.
It is an admonition that duly warned political leaders -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- can only ignore at their peril.