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Bridge-gate and Chris Christie: Governor’s Presidential Ambitions Are Toast

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luckovichblog
Even if you live somewhere outside of the tri-state area (New York-New Jersey-Connecticut) you no doubt have heard about the debacle involving members of New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s administration organizing the closure of lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge – the busiest bridge in the world. The reason involves extreme political payback for Mark Sokolich, the democratic mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, who had refused to support Christie’s re-election campaign. The fallout will likely mean many heads rolling, perhaps some people going to prison, and the inevitable end of Christie’s political ambitions for a presidential nomination.

If you read the stories in various papers, even the New York Post that usually fiercely defends a Republican on almost any matter, the news for Christie is very grim indeed. Despite his long-winded and rambling defense of his ignorance – and there is no other way to describe his not knowing what was going on – Christie looks incompetent at best and a pathetic liar at worst. Either way his presidential ambitions have hit an iceberg and are sinking faster than the Titanic.

There is some talk of this being a conspiracy, and we always hear of those on one side trying to destroy the people on the other. As politics has become more despicable each year, there is no reason why the American people should not see Washington D.C. as anything more than a warped version of Cutthroat Island. Everyone has a plan, an agenda, and some kind of game plan that is nefarious and right out of the plot of a soap opera.

One does get the sense that Republicans never really bought Christie as the frontrunner. He goes against all the things that the Grand Old Party usually holds dear. He is, after all, a Catholic, of Italian ancestry, comes from the Northeast, speaks his mind, and seems quite independent. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, some Republicans bristled at Christie meeting with and praising President Obama. How dare he have a mind of his own and thank anyone deemed unworthy in their limited point of view?

Of course, Republican voices no less wacky than Glenn Beck and others have questioned Christie as the choice to go up against Hillary Clinton. Even despite poll numbers (before Bridge-gate) showing Christie as the only potential Republican candidate having a chance to defeat Clinton, guys like Beck were saying demeaning things, including that Christie is a “fat mess.” Obviously, Republicans prefer to run a trim airhead like Mitt Romney whose presidential timber obviously suffered from dry rot.

So did this debacle stem from stupidity, malice, or just the immaturity of a playground mentality that is similar to not getting your way so you take your ball so that no one else can play? If Christie’s people did this without his knowledge it is despicable; if he knew it, that is more than appalling – it is criminal. This means Christie will have more to worry about than losing his presidential ambitions – he may be looking at long lonely days on a prison diet.

daily newsChristie came off as contrite in his public apology that went on longer (107 minutes) than that anthropology lecture in your memory of college nightmares. He seemed sincere, honest, but also sort of clueless. There is something so disconcerting here, so unsettling, and that is that Christie’s presidential timber may be as suspect as Romney’s or John McCain’s. Now he is tarnished, damaged goods. His prospects for running for president are history, for if he were to run he would surely lose.

Obviously, more and more information will come out in the days ahead. New documents are being released and stories in various newspapers such as The New York Daily News are tilting negatively and questioning Christie’s apology. The consensus seems to be that Christie was either involved in covering up what his cronies did or just outright lying about his involvement.

The callers and hosts of shows on talk radio and the TV talking heads are eating up this story, not to mention the late-night comics who are having a field day. While these things are giving us a few laughs, the situation is no joke. Lives were put in jeopardy, commerce was disrupted, and a truly pernicious personal vendetta on a bridge named for George Washington resulted in more than inconvenience. This is a case of our worst fears about the abuse of power becoming a reality.

There is a general feeling that Christie has revealed his true colors now. wash post Even if he is as innocent as he claims to be, his staff choices obviously call into question his ability to delegate and to lead. The level of pomposity shown – no matter how high it reaches in Christie’s administration – proves that this is not government for the people but at their expense.

Whatever revelations come, it is over for Christie – the fat lady has sung and left the building. This is it for him, and perhaps he has only himself to blame; however, there are those in his own party who are no doubt silently celebrating his fall. Now they can find someone more suited to their “brand” to go up against Hillary Clinton, which most likely means that Bill Clinton will become First Husband in 2016. That may be the best punishment of all.

Photo credits: Christie-Washington post and daily news; cartoon – luckovichblog

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About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charley Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.
  • Dr Joseph S Maresca

    This whole thing seems to be over a traffic study. I studied queuing/waiting line algorithms in college. It doesn’t seem necessary to shut down a city to conduct such a study. Traffic studies are conducted from known bottlenecks and alternate paths are selected by transportation linear programming algorithms to relieve the congestion. Sometimes the timing of the traffic lights is changed to move things along. There are other things a city can do like staggering work hours.

    Generally, the traffic police, school guards at crossings and a whole plethora of municipal employees have very detailed knowledge about the traffic patterns from everyday experience. It’s not even remotely necessary to close down a city to do a traffic study from what I know about the area. The GW Bridge has been historically a crowded area, as well as adjoining exits. The traffic patterns have been well known for many years by the contractors who repair the streets and run the software that analyzes the traffic patterns in a real time environment.

  • bliffle

    Christie has certainly blown his presidential hopes, so the question remains: is he still viable in New Jersey politics?

    • Rob Knaggs

      Yes, he is. He was re-elected in a landslide, is still highly popular in the state, and is one of the few conciliatory Republicans around.

  • Dr Joseph S Maresca

    There needs to be a strict separation between political campaigns and the routine operations of government. The governor’s office needs people who are professionals in public administration. In addition, there must be a top down charter which spells out the rights, duties, obligations, prohibited activity and recourse for all public employees in the governor’s office and throughout the management organization.

    Right now, Governor Christie needs to concentrate his efforts exclusively on regaining the public trust. As regards 2016, I’m more concerned about how he might give military contractors too much discretion if he ever reached the White House. An Administration at any level of governance needs a code of ethics and a charter to spell out in detail all obvious and non-obvious conflicts of interest.

    Given the facts of this case, I don’t understand why the mayor of Fort Lee didn’t call the Governor’s Office directly at the very beginning. If I was in the mayor’s shoes, I would have barred the State from acting until the governor came to the phone on an immediate basis. I would never have allowed the situation to deteriorate as it did.

  • Victor Lana

    Today the mayor of Hoboken revealed that Christie’s goons tried to bully her, telling her Sandy funds would be tied to special development projects. It does look like the governor is getting in deeper and deeper. Some say he may not serve out his term and his prez ambitions are obviously done.

  • Dr Joseph S Maresca

    These were federal funds. How can Gov. Christie have more sway over the distribution of federal money than President Obama or any member of the Administration?This seems to be a big puzzle.

  • Victor Lana

    The Nile is a river that runs through Egypt; apparently Denial runs through New Jersey. “Tis a muddy river indeed.

  • Dr Joseph S Maresca

    The Sandy Relief Funds come down from the federal government, probably HUD.
    The thing to do is for the Mayor of Hoboken to talk to someone in HUD or wherever the funds originate. In addition, the NJ Governor’s Office should have someone in charge of inter-jurisdictional issues between Washington, Trenton and the mayoralties of NJ. I would recommend a HOTLINE for these types of issues.

    The other thing to do is to talk directly with the governor’s legal counsel. Usually, the legal counsel is cooperative because the lawyers in government have an ethical legal code to satisfy for the legal profession itself.

    Since this is disaster relief, the mayors of NJ should have immediate recourse in the Federal District Court in NJ for a fast track to the United States Supreme Court, if necessary. Usually, the United States Supreme Court will fast track a case that impacts the public welfare in a major way with implications in the gray area of federal and state jurisdiction.

    There are at least 3 justices on the United States Supreme Court from the NY/NJ metropolitan area; namely Ginsburg, Kagan and Scalia. Chief Justice Roberts would rely heavily on their advice in internal discussions between the justices themselves.

  • bliffle

    Governors customarily regard federal block funds as patronage that they hand out freely to their cronies. For example, a particularly egregious example is the $600million congress sent to New Orleans, La., for restoration of sub $150k houses after Katrina, which politicians successfully diverted into a new harbors and docks project (while homeowners got stiffed). Ho hum.

  • Dr Joseph S Maresca

    That may be true but Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath take precedence over political patronage. This is something that would have to be taken into President Obama’s Office itself to make sure that the right thing gets done.

    Another avenue would be taking the issue right into the District Court in NJ to get a reading from one of the federal judges on the law and the recourse the citizens of NJ have in securing the funds on an immediate basis. If the State has discretion under the law, the mayors could argue the “arbitrary and capricious”
    standard under the law and show damages to prove their point.

    Trust me. The case wouldn’t be in the federal courts very long. At the point, the right thing would be done because journalists and citizens groups would start joining in. At some point, “Friend of the Court” briefs would be filed and the issue would percolate up to the governor’s legal counsel for a response to the filings.

  • bliffle

    To a politician nothing takes precedence over patronage. Even if it’s something you want to do you must find where to extract tribute. Otherwise you will never get re-elected. Just observe G Bushes inaction after Katrina.

    Tribute MUST be paid!