Christie — mind the credibility gap
“Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee”: So said metaphysical poet John Donne.
“I actually was the guy working the cones… You are not really serious”: So snapped Governor Christie during a press conference early last December.
Port Authority officials and Mr. Christie’s office declined to address the controversial lane closures for several weeks; even while media outlets in New York and New Jersey began reporting on the George Washington Bridge debacle in earnest. Even after the initial legislative hearings happened late last year in New Jersey, Mr. Christie openly mocked the idea that he might have been involved. When presented with the ability to get out in front of this story, he chose to try to bury it.
It wasn’t very long before it was discovered that Bill Baroni – a Christie appointee and the Deputy Executive Director of the Port Authority – had told other Port officials that they were not to discuss the closings publicly.
By December 13th, Mr. Baroni had resigned from the Port Authority. Mr. Baroni’s resignation came just one week after David Wildstein’s resignation.
Mr. Wildstein cited he was leaving his job because the lane closure controversy had “become a distraction”; and he wanted to “move on.” As Christmas week of 2013 arrived, what was once a local news development had quickly become a national news story. Mr. Baroni and Mr. Wildstein both lawyered up. Meanwhile, the New Jersey state Assembly began issuing subpoenas to investigate the matter. By the end of December, it was revealed that emails had been found which proved that first responders had been adversely affected by the GWB lane closings.
As Governor Christie accused those investigating what happened with the bridge of engaging in political brinksmanship, more pieces of the puzzle
On January 9th, a sober and reflective Governor Christie spoke to reporters extensively at the Statehouse and apologized to the citizens of his state.
Describing himself as embarrassed and disappointed, Mr. Christie stated: “I am who I am, but I am not a bully.” A couple of hours later, the Governor’s high school classmate, friend and Port Authority appointee David Wildstein repeatedly pleaded the 5th amendment while being questioned by the NJ Assembly committee investigating the GWB lane closures.
On January 10th, a federal lawsuit was filed by six New Jerseyans against Mr. Christie, the state of New Jersey, and the Port Authority – based upon the allegation that the multi-day traffic nightmare was the result of “deliberate actions”. But more woes were yet to come for the Governor.
On January 18th, Dawn Zimmer – the Mayor of Hoboken, NJ – came forth to allege that Governor Christie’s Lieutenant Governor (Kim Guadagno) pulled her aside in June of 2013 and told her Sandy recovery funds were be freed up for her city if she signed off on a certain real estate development. Ms. Guadagno immediately and vehemently denied Ms. Zimmer’s claim; calling it “false and illogical.” Investigative reporters have since found witnesses and evidence which suggest that Ms. Zimmer’s claims are accurate.
Shortly thereafter, New Jersey politicians and public officials (both Republicans and Democrats) began coming forward with their own claims of Christieadministered political payback in various ways. A broad pattern began to become apparent: those who played ball with Mr. Christie prospered. Those who didn’t were either fired, demoted, or urged to seek employment elsewhere.
In the last two weeks, many subpoenas have been issued to the Governor, keys members of his administrative staff, and staffers from his re-election campaign. Their call logs, text logs, and emails are all being gathered as evidence. Meanwhile, investigations are underway by the Port Authority, the NJ Assembly, the NJ Senate, and the U.S. Attorney’s office. The U.S. Senate may get involved soon.
What a mess.
Governor Christie’s unfavorability number is soaring. His popularity and credibility are nose-diving. Few prominent GOP leaders are coming to Mr. Christie’s defense – mainly because his bad news is good news for them.
The first acknowledged toll road was in Babylon during the 7th century B.C. Since its inception 2,700 years ago, a toll road has been a public roadway requiring a fee from those who travel upon it. What price must the Governor pay for denying New Jerseyans access to the George Washington Bridge?
What toll is appropriate for an administration whose members deliberately created traffic purgatory simply because they could? Time will tell.
Who will be the first person to be offered immunity? Who will be the star witness? How will this scandal end?
If Governor Christie ordered those GWB lanes to be closed for any reason, he’s done. If he indeed knew nothing about what his staff was up to, then
he’s done because he should’ve known. For my Republican friends who have been looking for a scandal, I give you Exhibit C – “Bridgegate”.
Come clean, Mr. Christie.
The bells are tolling. Oh say, can you hear?