CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Many attribute political operatives' purposeful disruption of traffic on the country's busiest bridge to the poor character of those involved. Such a conclusion, while perhaps partially accurate, is incomplete.
Callous indifference to the suffering of others is by definition antisocial and deviant behavior, and the participants in Bridgegate appear afflicted with that character flaw.
People like Bridget Anne Kelly, the governor's deputy chief of staff in New Jersey, who sent the email initiating the traffic disruption, who are willing to undertake and tolerate such action are unworthy for public employment; Gov. Chris Christie was right to fire her.
It strains credulity to believe that Ms. Kelly was the only person still on the New Jersey public payroll involved in this crass and harmful political stunt.
I don't know Ms. Kelly, but I know many people who have had similar educational and employment experiences. Like her, I grew up in New Jersey, went to Catholic school, got an undergraduate degree in political science from a sectarian institution, and worked as a political appointee for a Republican governor who won his second term by a landslide margin.
I'm confident that Ms. Kelly was not taught to behave in an antisocial manner at either Immaculate Heart Academy or Mount St. Mary's College. I think it's likely that her actions in this instance are not only embarrassing but also aberrational to her fundamental character. Public service is an unlikely career choice for those who seek to harm others. We all know that good people sometimes do bad things.
The particular impetus for the egregious behavior of Gov. Christie's appointees remains to be seen, but I think the true cause lies in an ideology that demeans government and those who work in public service. In my experience, people who regularly hear, believe -- and pretending to believe is likely at least as bad as truly believing -- and tell others that government is the source of our problems are more likely to behave coldheartedly when employed by the government.
That is, the fundamental problem is likely bigger, and harder to eliminate, than individual miscreants; the real problem is the increasingly popular ideology that less government is always better.