“Is it wrong that I’m smiling?” one Chris Christie staffer asked another after closing a major bridge to a punish town whose Mayor didn’t endorse the New Jersey Governor’s reelection bid. “No,” the other aide wrote back. This is what passes for a “traffic study” in the Christie administration, apparently.
If the aides’ discussion strikes you as a horrifying way to talk
about a decision that hurts thousands of people, you’re not alone:
that’s one of the reasons this scandal seems to be so devastating for
Chris Christie’s political future. It plays into the House of Cards
stereotype about politicians and political operatives, that they care
about power above all else, including the welfare of their constituents.
As it turns out, this stereotype has some basis in fact. According to
solid psychological research and theory, politicians often end up
possessing qualities common in sociopaths — or simply are sociopaths
themselves. And while it’s not possible to identify the psychology
behind the actions of Christie or his staff, the sheer callousness of
their rhetoric presents a good opportunity to examine whether political
leaders and operatives more broadly have an empathy problem. The answer
appears to be yes.