In the embarrassing climb-down that is his most recent flip-flop on gambling, the Prime Minister desperately sought to make a virtue out of his incompetence and bungling, and that his government likely lacked the legal authority to proceed with a vote that it probably would have lost:
“I am a Prime Minister who listens. And in listening to the still evolving public discourse on the forthcoming referendum it has become clear to me that more time is needed before the Bahamian people are called upon to vote.
“I am supported in this view by the leadership of a broad cross-section of the national community with whom I have been consulting over the past few days.”
That Christie believes that voters are gullible enough to believe such balderdash speaks to his contempt for the common sense of those who see through the farce he is attempting to perpetuate in this whole numbers business. His attempt to describe his latest flip-flop as listening must be an inside joke.
There are reports of private polling to gauge whether the December 3 poll should have been postponed. One wonders whether this figured into its postponement.
Christie may have been listening, but was it mostly to narrow interests who may funnel campaign contributions to his party, as well as those who gave him stunningly poor advice?
If he had indeed listened carefully to a broader cross-section of voices earlier rather than to the drumbeat of his puffed-up hubris and self-serving backers he would not be in this utterly confusing mess of which he is the lead author, though his cabinet bears collective responsibility for the debacle.
Despite Christie’s involvement in public life for nearly four decades this has been one of the most disastrous performances -- at the nexus of policy and politics -- by any prime minister in an independent Bahamas.
Christie’s newfound listening posture is not the sign of able leadership that he pretends. Instead, by failing to adequately consult beforehand, he failed some of the most basic tests of leadership.
His so-called listening reminds one of a toddler who, after burning his finger on the stove for the umpteenth time, stops for the moment, then brags to his mom about how well he’s listening to her advice to stay away from the stove.
There is a back story to this debacle to which Christie alluded in parliament. Rattled by Long Island MP Loretta Butler Turner in the House, Christie recited the PLP’s three election wins from the Elizabeth by-election, nearly three years ago, to that of North Abaco, as if to say, how dear you challenge me.
That his party failed to win a majority of the popular vote on May 7 -- in part because of his leadership deficits and previous failures as prime minister -- has not engendered in him any humility. Christie’s arrogance is surreal.
It’s the same cloud nine he has been on since May 7, indicative of his narcissistic claim of divine provenance for his prime ministership: “... But God has spoken. God has made me the prime minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.”
Often, narcissism’s fraternal twin is megalomania, a “condition characterized by delusional fantasies of ... omnipotence”, and “by an inflated sense of self-esteem and overestimation by persons of their powers.”
Christie’s web cafe debacle was conceived in hubris and megalomania, nurtured in sheer incompetence and foisted on the Bahamian people with stunning miscalculation. His cloud nine has turned to stormy weather.
Fresh off election wins, Christie miscalculated that he would rush through a vote that his party would win giving it political cover to legalize certain enterprises that might prove generous to his party in perpetuity. Talk of neutrality was always a ruse. His gambit, thus far, has backfired.
Still, Christie’s hubris was only outmatched by staggering incompetence. To refresh our memories, let’s recall this government’s comedy of errors:
The PLP’s election charter promised a referendum on a national lottery and gambling. The government flip-flopped by deciding to hold a referendum solely on web cafes, supposedly on the advice of UK consultants who apparently suggested that a national lottery was not commercially feasible, even though they have admitted to not conducting a more thorough study.
Remember also that Christie said the consultants were preparing a report, which now turns out to be just a few letters. The breakneck flip-flopping continued: Christie then advised there would be a poll instead of a referendum.
Now, in the latest whip-lashing flip-flop, we are told that the referendum is back on and will include a question on a national lottery, the very lottery that was supposedly commercially non-feasible based on a report which seemingly never existed. What a tangled web cafe weave.
So staggeringly incompetent has Christie been in this numbers affair, one wonders whether certain colleagues left him to his own devices, so that he might flail, flounder and flip-flop. The prime minister’s attempt to extricate himself from this entanglement in his most recent House communication on gambling also failed.
Butler Turner was having none of Christie’s flip-flopping, crying shame on the whole sham, taking Christie’s nerve while taking on a government which seemed dazed as she mocked its breath-taking hypocrisy and muddled thinking.
In a weak defence, Christie boasted of his numbers in the chamber, as if he was rallying his troops in the face of the Long Island MP’s singular offensive. Curiously, despite the largest cabinet since internal self-government in 1964, his government’s performance on the gambling issue has been a collective disaster.
Nevertheless, Christie’s leading and vociferous role in this policy and political mess has likely encouraged those within his cabinet who would rather replace him sooner rather than later.
Speaking of crocodile tears, as Christie did last week, an often telling sign that he is under the gun and/or on the losing side of an argument is that he becomes even more voluble and impassioned as he attempts to obfuscate certain facts with performance art, bluster, and often feigned hurt or sincerity, depending on the dramatic persona required.
He did so in the House, referring to those who are too stupid and blind to see certain facts, and those who are being “transparently opportunistic”. Given Christie’s tin-ear, blinders, wholesale incompetence, collapsed credibility, dissembling and spectacularly opportunistic flip-flopping on this issue, his was not the best choice of language.
While Christie’s performance in the House last week may not be good enough for an Academy Award, it merits a nomination for a Daytime Emmy. Unfortunately, his performance then and during the course of the current debate will not win him an award for excellence in public policy or good governance.
The very day that Christie was performing his latest flip-flop in the House, Fr. Jimmy Palacious lambasted the government’s web cafe intentions. He lamented that this government would seek to push through a poll on gambling while women are constitutionally still unequal to men.
This is the crying shame of Perry Christie’s PLP, demonstrably quicker in seeking to secure the greed of private interests rather than the public good of the mass of Bahamians, and the equality of women.
Christie’s failure of leadership is not solely one of chronic incompetence. More broadly and egregiously it is an outsized and shameful failure to keep faith with the Bahamian people and the demands of social justice. No posturing, play-acting or preening by Perry Christie can obscure this sad reality.