What Of Christie?

Governor’s Future In Doubt

Posted: January 15, 2014

Tentative kudos to Chris Christie for his response, thus far, of what predictably has come to be known as “Bridgegate.” After some initial wisecracking, New Jersey’s Republican governor has dealt with the matter swiftly and earnestly. In an endless press conference last Thursday, he answered all questions and, in general, took his lumps from the media.

Nonetheless, if Mr. Christie, a putative front-runner for the GOP presidential nod, thinks the tale of these petty political machinations — orchestrated, as best we can tell thus far, by underlings — is simply going to wither and die on the vine, wethinks he should reconsider. This story will maintain, as they say, its “legs.” He is, after all, a Republican and, to date, the only one given a chance of beating Hillary Clinton in November 2016. And it matters little that this gesture of apparent political payback hardly measures up to the level of, say, a Benghazi or the IRS “targeting” of conservative groups. His status as a winner with an “R” next to his name assures the fangs of media as well as political foes will stay out. Witness the alacrity, for instance, with which Eric Holder’s Justice Department has initiated a criminal probe of the controversial lane closures. This, from an agency galactically dilatory in its investigation of a wayward IRS.

Nonetheless, certain elements in this case give pause, starting with the supposed reason for the closures — to punish a Democratic mayor for not endorsing a Republican governor in a race the latter expected to win hands-down, and did win easily. That doesn’t make much sense, as it elevates petty vindictiveness to new heights, even in the political sphere.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, of all people, has speculated the closures had nothing to do with Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, but instead were retribution against Loretta Weinberg, Democratic leader in the state Senate, for her caucus’ decision to challenge the renomination of a Republican Supreme Court justice. A furious Mr. Christie withdrew the name of that jurist from consideration last Aug. 12. The tell-tale email from his deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, suggesting that it was “time for traffic problems in Fort Lee” (within Ms. Weinberg’s district), came the following morning. Coincidence?

More alarming is the response to that email. “Got it” — rather than “What in God’s name are you talking about?” — was the reply from David Wildstein, one of Mr. Christie’s top aides on the Port Authority, which oversees the George Washington Bridge.

This suggests — to us, at least — that such petty (that word again) exertions of political muscle are SOP in Chris Christie’s New Jersey. We don’t relish the idea of trading one form of political thuggery for another — i.e., Chicago style for Garden State vintage.

Whatever Mr. Christie knew about his aides’ activities, the unquestioning, almost breezy way in which this punitive act was carried out, gives us reasons aplenty to question his political future.

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