Did too much loyalty do Chris Christie in?

Chris Christie
(Image credit: (Hindash, Saed/Star Ledger/Corbis))

In Double Down, the best-selling behind-the-scenes tome of the 2012 campaign, the authors delve into New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's interaction with the top of the Republican ticket. The portrait wasn't very flattering. Double Down's Christie was megalomaniacal, self-possessed, and obsessed with reciprocity: You do well by him, and he'll do well by you. You fundraise without his permission in New Jersey, and he'll cut the donors off. Loyalty trumped all. If Christie perceived you as disloyal, you were out of his inner circle. That's in passive voice because Christie would leave it to his lieutenants to enforce this code of honor.

In politics, the British Labourite Neil Kinnock one said, loyalty "is fine, but in excess, it fills political graveyards." Loyalty helps bond a team to a candidate, and it allows a candidate to trust his team to make decisions. It's an emolument, a grease, for efficient campaigning. But too much loyalty blinds people to their principle duties, and when combined with power, it frequently leads to abuse of office, misdirection, and even lying.

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