Lane closure debacle could prove Christie’s version of Watergate

by Nicholas Riebel ’17Contributing Writer (nriebel@fandm.edu)

Let me start off by saying that I’ve personally never liked Chris Christie. Not merely for political or ideological reasons, but for personal ones as well. He appears to be a bully — a thug even — at first glance. If you observe him more carefully, however, you find that your first impression is, indeed, correct. I think many, if not most, people knew this before “Bridge-gate,” though a few still allowed themselves to be deceived.

The full story is far more complicated than I can describe here, but the short version is this: it appears the governor — or at least high-ranking members of his staff — bullied the small-town mayor of Fort Lee, Fort Lee’s citizens, and anyone who wanted to use the Fort Lee lanes.

When the Republican Governor ran for reelection last year, a certain Democratic mayor of Fort Lee refused to endorse his reelection. Though an unusually high percentage of Democratic politicians endorsed Christie’s reelection, many, if not most, did not.

Christie, or his staff, ordered two of the bridge lanes to Fort Lee on the George Washington Bridge be closed down for an unknown reason — not a traffic study, as was originally claimed.

Traffic was extremely congested for those trying to get to Fort Lee, leading to a variety of incidents and problems (see: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/01/chris-christie-bridge-traffic-jam-emails for all the details. I am trying to be as fair as possible by not enumerating all the damage this did, as we are not 100 percent sure the governor is guilty).

Perhaps the worst part, though, is those responsible seem to have been enthusiastic to the point of sadism for this silly retribution. The aide’s emails obviously show this was a political attack for the mayor’s refusal to support the governor, beyond a shadow of a doubt. The only questions are whether Christie knew and whether he ordered the bridge lane closures.

Even if Christie is innocent and truly has “plausible deniability,” he is incompetent: he obviously cannot control his staff and has trouble choosing honest and non-corrupt workers. Even if he has learned his lesson and can control them from now on, we know that his administration’s actions are controlled by the people he hires rather than himself.

And if he has been careless in this very important area, can we trust him on the other aspects of government, particularly when/if he gets in the White House (he won’t, but let’s pretend that’s still a possibility for him)?

But it would seem more likely that Christie is guilty as charged (see: http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/12/gov_chris_christie_called_andrew_cuomo_to_complain_about_handling_of_port_authority_lane_closing_sna.html), that he ordered his aides to bully Fort Lee and its mayor or at least implied they should (for some “plausible deniability” in case he was caught and had to throw the actual perpetrators under the bus).

If this is what he’ll do over something so minor and petty, as a nearly-irrelevant endorsement from a small-town mayor of a rival party for an election that most polls predicted him winning by a landslide, how can we possibly trust this man on the important issues facing this nation?

Christie has lost the trust of the people after he already earned the hatred of many Democrats and even many in his own party. His only true backers are the wealthy conservative Republicans who backed Romney, but even they may fear facing Christie’s wrath, especially as president — perhaps a few of them aren’t donating enough to his campaign, or they disagree with him on foreign policy — I think they’ve already reconsidered their support, and if they haven’t yet, I would strongly encourage them to do so, if they dare.

If you, personally, still support Christie, just keep in mind what kind of person he is. He deflects responsibility to others for the incident to save himself, has a track record of bullying others less powerful than him (see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/01/08/chris-christies-problem-is-that-hes-really-truly-a-bully/), and is either dangerously incapable of governance, or too petty, thuggish, and authoritarian for the task.

One quote from an aide (and there were many inappropriate ones, arguably worse than these), “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” and the response from another,“Got it,” should end his career. This is Christie’s Watergate, and more “incidents” similar to this are appearing (see: http://thinkprogress.org/home/2014/01/09/3141001/aide-fired-vendetta/). If they do not, we have elected the government, and possible governor-turned-president, we deserve.

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