Saturday, January 11, 2014

Thoughts on the "Bridgegate" Scandal

Chris Christie gave an almost two-hour news conference the other day in which he was adamant that he hadn't known of the politically-motivated closing of three lanes on the world's busiest bridge, the George Washington Bridge, after Fort Lee's mayor refused to endorse him for governor in last year's campaign. Taking Christie at his word, let us examine this situation more closely.

First, Christie says he asked his senior staff to tell him if there was anything else he needed to know about the lanes closing. At his press conference, he fired his staff member Bridgett Kelly because she "lied to me". His response seems quite egocentric; that is, he was upset not because thousands of his New Jersey constituents were inconvenienced by the closings,  not because emergency vehicles were delayed and one person actually died before help could arrive, but because he felt personally betrayed by his staff. As the mayor of Fort Lee said, don't apologize to me, apologize to the people who were harmed by the closings, to all the school children who couldn't get to school for hours on the first day of school.
Second, Christie is a former prosecutor who made his name by successfully prosecuting public officials for public corruption. Believe me, these are not easy cases to prosecute. You don't do it by being a shrinking violet. Christie's lack of follow-up with his staff indicates a willful desire to not know the truth. Had he wanted to know the truth, he would have asked obvious follow-up questions, such as, when was the decision to do this alleged "traffic study" decided upon? What advance notice was given to the people in the area that this was going to be done? What was the purpose of the traffic study? Who approved it? Experts say that months of advance notice would be normal in this situation, where the busiest bridge in the world was being affected. The lack of any notice at all is a sure sign that something was amiss here. Christie should have caught on to this.

Third, every expert who has commented has said that the person at the top always determines the tone of the office. Joe Scarborough says that when he was in Congress, he could walk into a colleague's office and tell within minutes which office he was in, just by the tone and appearance of the office. The person at the top always sets the tone for the office. Christie set a tone, and  his underlings proceeded accordingly.

Fourth, the people who know Bridgett Kelly say her actions were completely out of character for her. She has been known as a person of integrity, very issue-oriented, and the last person who would take it upon herself to do such a vile, viindictive thing.

Christie's apology, while seeming to be heartfelt and superficially sincere, ignores all of these factors, and did not speak to any of them. Right-wing Republicans can now breathe easier, since Christie has eliminated himself as a contender for the 2016 nomination.

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