Even so, morality is not—and never should be—absent from the equation: The key stipulation, which Machiavelli took seriously, is "in the name of the public good." In other words: You may have to do ruthless things to your political opponents, but you do those things because they help your constituents. It matters, in politics, who benefits.
Such is the case with LBJ's strong-arm tactics. Yes, he deceived, threatened, and browbeat colleagues—"That man will twist your arm off at the shoulder and beat your head in with it," Dixiecrat Senator Richard Russell, a staunch opponent of civil rights, famously observed. But we are, rightly, most tempted to forgive LBJ these trespasses when he undertook them on behalf of his constituents, especially disenfranchised black people in the South and poor people across America—when he was bullying, you might say, for a cause. It may still have fallen below the mark of what the American people should expect from their leaders, but it's also more excusable than bullying without a cause (which Johnson dabbled in, too, and which no one praises). Good ends, in politics, may not justify all means—but you don't have to be a ruthless Machiavellian to accept that, with the right intentions, they can mitigate some means.
Christie's recent scandals, meanwhile, appear to turn that logic on its head. Quadrupling working people's commutes in Fort Lee and withholding Hurricane Sandy relief from Hoboken, as Christie's administration is alleged to have done, isn't holding up your colleague's judgeship because you want to get a reform bill passed—it's wreaking havoc on the daily lives of many of your own constituents to settle a personal score. The victims are real people, and the beneficiary is one politician. There's no offsetting public gain.
To bring back the sports analogy, it's the difference between delivering a bone-crushing hit on the opposing team's quarterback and delivering a bone-crushing hit on some of the opposing team's fans. It's one thing when you feel your governor is fighting hard for you; it's another when you feel he's just fighting.
Klein, in his piece, gestures at Christie's riff at the 2012 Republican National Convention in which he downplayed the importance of being loved. "The unstated corollary, of course, is that Christie, unlike Obama, knows how to be feared," Klein writes.
But there is no "unstated corollary," because Christie stated the corollary in the speech—he was telling a story about advice his mother gave him (a story he used to tell on the stump back in Jersey):
And the greatest lesson that mom ever taught me though was this one. She told me there would be times in your life when you have to choose between being loved and being respected. Now she said to always pick being respected. She told me that love without respect was always fleeting, but that respect could grow into real and lasting love.
It's no big deal that Klein forgot that the dichotomy was love versus respect, not love versus fear. It's a Sandy-level tragedy for my home state that our governor may have.