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March 28, 2017

Poet Countee Cullen wins Phi Beta Kappa honors at New York University on this date in 1925.

Animal House Meets the State House

POSTED: February 11, 2014, 11:30 am

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From all indications, the infamous Delta Tau Chi fraternity of the silver screen’s Animal House has a new chapter in the New Jersey State House and they are turning the campus upside down. Like a bunch of drunken frat boys, the Christie crew is running amuck as the rest of us are left to declare “You make we wanna shout!” as Animal House meets the State House.

Given the stream of scandal driven news coming out of the New Jersey State House these days it seems Governor Christie and his gang is in need and deserving of a “double secret probation.” Like an errant child, the governor can’t seem to behave in a manner consistent with what most thinking folks deem responsible. For those outside of the Garden State, the recent scandals must seem beyond belief but in Jersey we pretty much accept that it is never a matter of if and who but more likely a question of when and how when it comes to gubernatorial scandals. Yet, this latest episode is so galling, so petty and seemingly driven by personal ambition that it exceeds even that which New Jerseyans have come to accept as the cost of doing political business in our state.

In my mind it’s not that Governor Christie is a bully. What governor hasn’t reached the tarnished golden dome of State Street without leaving some collateral damage on the side of the road? For me, the real issue is the pettiness and childish behavior of this governor that reeks of entitlement and privilege. Whether he ordered the infamous lane closings that resulted in nightmarish traffic on the nation’s busiest river crossing, the George Washington Bridge that spans the Hudson River and connects northern New Jersey and New York City, is not relevant. The fact that it happened on his watch and is rooted in the sophomoric atmosphere of a high school clique in the state’s highest office is for me the greater offense. Even if Governor Christie did not authorize this specific prank he has bred the environment in which this behavior is possible.

“For me, the real issue is the pettiness and childish behavior of this governor that reeks of entitlement and privilege.”

You can almost envision the guys and gals in the State House chapter of Delta Tau sitting around chanting Toga!, Toga!, Toga!, as they planned to wreak havoc on those who got in the way of their merriment. There is Chris “Bluto” Christie salivating over stuffing votes in his pocket like John Belushi’s character’s infamous Jell-O binging lunch line scene in Animal House. And David Wildstein as the ambitious but underachieving “Robert Hoover” character; trying his best to portray some sense of belonging. Then there is Bridget Kelly, the State House version of “Mandy Pepperidge,” the social climber who has a straight laced beau but is enamored with the campus bad boy. Let’s not forget David Samson, the former state Attorney General and Port Authority chairman, perfectly cast as the character “Boon,” who must decide between his State House clique and responsible adulthood. And the New Jersey press corps is the lucky kid who lands a Playboy bunny in his bed while reading Hefner’s fantasy laced men’s magazine.

While I tease there is some truth to the prevailing attitude and behavior of this governor’s administration and its similarities to Animal House. Rules don’t seem to matter unless they can be bent to the administration’s favor. Common decency is a weakness as “leadership” is defined by rudeness and decorum is sacrificed by child-like temper tantrums. If this frat can’t control the parade, then they’ll just have to disrupt it. And while Christie’s frat did not drive a tank through Fort Lee, they conveyed a resounding “Eat Me” to stranded motorists who labored in the debacle on the George Washington Bridge. Like the disciplinary hearing scene in the movie, Christie’s frat shows up at a legislative hearing, pretty much dismisses the proceedings and goes “constitutional” when the truth could set the entire campus free. All that’s missing is the dead horse in the dean’s office but give these folks some time. They haven’t disappointed yet.

All of this nonsense in my state capitol leaves me disgusted. There is no other word for it because disappointed doesn’t fully capture my distaste for this type of abuse of power. It matters little to me whether Governor Christie survives this scandal and serves out the remainder of his term. The damage is already done and not to himself but to our already tarnished state. Even if Christie resigns or has his presidential ambitions squashed, there will be a job out there for him with a law firm, political organization or of course with the GOP employment agency, the Fox News Network. It’s the rest of us who have to clean up after this frat party.


Walter Fields is Executive Editor of NorthStarNews.com.

An earlier version of this article included an incorrect spelling of David Wildstein.

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