“We are morally indefensible and absolutely necessary” – Col Eric Byer [Edward Norton], The Bourne Legacy
Of all the Bourne movies, I think Bourne Legacy was by far the weakest. It lacked purpose. It lacked the emotional attachment of seeing Jason Bourne fight to recapture his life after suffering amnesia on a clandestine mission. Legacy was just more clinical in its consideration of a government coverup of nefarious behaviors. Still, it did produce a nice quote. Colonel Byer (played by Edward Norton) chides Aaron Cross (the Jason Bourne stand-in, played by Jeremy Renner) that their outfit is morally indefensible and absolutely necessary.
Many folks will argue that that is a real state of being. That one can have a morally indefensible role and yet be indispensable to achieving “good” outcomes. I say this is hogwash. If someone is truly “absolutely necessary” for achieving “good” then they are not morally indefensible … perhaps politically indefensible, but not morally indefensible. Such arguments are only presented because folks tend to have a wishy-washy definition of morality and revert to “whatever makes the masses cringe is immoral.”
Of course, a more likely case is that things are morally indefensible and simultaneously not necessary to achieve good. Here the issue is the definition of “good” – with “good” in the movie being whatever mechanism of control the fascist state wishes to employ.
Regardless of definitions, even in movie land it is hard to imagine that such shadowy dens of iniquity exist without at least some “head-nod” from positions of authority. One has to assume there is at least some acquiescence on the part of the seat of power to “do bad things to achieve ‘good’ outcomes, just don’t tell me about it.”
I only had a few moments to comment on the Chris Christie situation yesterday, and that was before he gave his 107 minute press conference. To recap, Christie aides shut down several lanes of traffic in accessing the George Washington bridge in and around Fort Lee, NJ. This led to massive traffic jams and was apparently political payback for the Fort Lee mayor who refused to endorse Chris Christie.
After months of denials, some emails and text messages have emerged that show Christie’s office was indeed involved. Most notable to my mind was when one participant texted that they felt bad for the children stuck on school buses in the middle of the traffic jam. The response from Christie’s aide: “those are the children of Buono voters.” State Senator Barabara Buono was Christie’s opponent in the gubernatorial election. The message here is clear: “your pain doesn’t matter if you didn’t vote for me, your life is of little-to-no worth and I don’t at all mind using the ‘power of the people’ entrusted to me in order to inflict pain on you to prove a morally indefensible and absolutely necessary point.”
Is it any wonder this guy gets along so well with President Obama? Something about “minds thinking a like” …
Speaking of the president, Governor Christie appears to have invoked the Obama defense in all of this. When the IRS scandal, the Benghazi scandal, the Fast-and-Furious scandal, and all the other scandals broke, the administration’s defense was simply “we didn’t know” or “we found out about it the same time you did – by watching the news.” This led Senator Rand Paul to quip that “at no time was the Obama administration aware of what the Obama administration was doing.”
The defense was both laughable and effective. Does anyone think for one second that the IRS would target political opponents of the president without at least some acknowledgement at higher levels? Perhaps three or four layers of middle management existed between Lois Lerner and Barack Obama, but this type of stuff doesn’t happen unless somebody, somewhere has gotten the clear impression that it is OK to behave in such a way.
The same holds for Christie. He has claimed that he didn’t know, that he’s surprised by all of this, that his staff lied to him – and it could all be true. But even if it is all true, staffers don’t get the idea that they can behave badly without having learned over the years that such behavior is tolerated and even encouraged. Staffers don’t come to the conclusion that it is OK to inflict pain on the children of the supporters of political opponents unless they have learned over the years that such behavior is acceptable and perhaps even a morally indefensible and absolutely necessary part of government.
We’ll see what shakes out over the next few days and weeks. I personally hope there is an investigation. Whatever comes, one has to suspect that Christie’s political future is in doubt. While traditional democrat voters may tolerate this crap from their politicians (e.g., Obama), there are enough folks on the Right (e.g., Tea Party) that don’t at all mind scuttling political expediency for the sake of principle. Agree or disagree with those principles, at least they guide actions. In this case, the Tea Party types will be more than happy to use this as a means to foil Christie’s presidential aspirations … if he even stays in office long enough to make the primary.