We all know the details of the bridge lane closing controversy in New Jersey. In terms of stupid political dirty tricks, this one will go down in history as one of the most stupid of all time. Christie fired his deputy chief of staff for lying to him. He should have fired her for rank stupidity. The most egregious aspect of this whole spectacle reminds one of the ridiculousness of Nixon and the 1972 presidential campaign. It is not because this controversy is the equivalent of Watergate. In 1972, as the results clearly showed, Nixon was in no danger of losing his reelection effort to George McGovern. In New Jersey in 2013, Christie, as the results proved, was in no danger of losing his reelection effort. Just as underlings approving the burglarizing of the opposition’s headquarters made absolutely no sense, these actions in New Jersey made no sense. Did Christie honestly need the endorsement of the mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey? Remember: this is the town where a Mr. Richard Fader lived in those famous Saturday Night Live Roseanne Rosannadanna skits.
That being said, Christie handled the situation in almost textbook damage control fashion. In one day, he held a more informative press conference than Obama has held in 5 years. There was no mincing of words, no parsing of language. There will be no “what I really said” reinterpretations of what was said in the future. The New Jersey Democratic-led legislature will search and search in vain for the alleged “smoking gun” to link Christie to direct knowledge of this event and waste taxpayer money in the process.
Christie has become a very adept politician despite how many view him. It is inconceivable that he would repeatedly make such a categorical denial of knowledge of or involvement in this “scandal” if, in fact, he was in any way involved or had knowledge of it. Many pundits are finding it unlikely this is the case since he did not pick up a phone and try to find out what was happening in Fort Lee when the complaints started coming in. Unless Christie is the equivalent of Jimmy Carter micromanaging every aspect of New Jersey government including traffic jams, then their arguments make little sense. Traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge are not the things a Governor should intimately be involved with especially since the bridge is managed by an independent state agency not under the direct control of the Governor of New Jersey.
This controversy proves three things. First, it welcomes Chris Christie to the big leagues where everything he says and does and everything that happens in his administration will be placed under the microscope and analyzed to death. In the end, this may be just a blip on the radar on the road to 2016 but one that his opposition both Democratic and within the Republican Party will play to the fullest. Secondly, it demonstrates the depths to which his Democratic opposition both nationally and in the state will stoop. To the liberal media, it in inconceivable that the governor of New Jersey did not pick up a phone and look into what was happening in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Yet this same media excuses away and turns a blind eye and finds it conceivable that the president of the United States was unaware that the IRS was targeting Tea Party groups, or that a terrorist attack in Libya was the result of a video, or that Eric Holder was unaware of spying on Fox News reporters let alone providing guns to Mexican drug cartels. The hypocrisy here truly smells. Third,it demonstrates what a leader is supposed to do in these situations- get in front of the situation, take ultimate responsibility, apologize, fire some people, and move on. Can Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton lay claim to the same? It needs reminding that after Christie took on the powerful NJEA, his first appearance was at a public school in Democratic territory. While Christie was walking into the lion’s den, Obama was on an airplane to a fundraiser in Nevada leaving Clinton and her cronies to come up with the great video excuse for the death of an ambassador. While Christie has not shied away from political foes, Obama surrounds himself with adoring props at every photo opportunity. While Christie has worked with Democratic opposition in Trenton, Obama has essentially shut the White House doors to GOP leaders and negotiation to Obama is defined as his way or no way.
Thus, all anyone is left with are accusations of a “bully” culture or atmosphere in Trenton that permeates throughout the Christie administration. While many dwell on the Youtube videos of Christie shouting down people (from four years ago, I might add), the reality is quite different in the overall sense. When expressing soundly and forcefully a difference of opinion on any subject one feels strongly about is now defined as “bullying,” then we are truly long down the road to the “wussification” of this country. This “controversy” will remain in the news as long as the Democrats in Trenton and Washington DC want it to remain a “controversy.” It should be noted that on Friday, January 10th the New Jersey legislature released more than 2,000 pages of documents related to the bridge lane closure and not a single page implicated Christie. It is interesting to further note that outside New Jersey, this fact did not make national headlines. If there is a silver lining in this for Christie, it happened early in his second administration and may be old news by the time he presents a legislative agenda or announces any plans for 2016.
There will likely be a criminal investigation and indictments. Already, the federal prosecutor and FBI are involved in the investigation as well as state and local authorities and the state legislature. Such is the nature of the beast. But the bottom line is that this action was clearly a stupid political dirty trick that was unnecessary from the start. Traffic on the George Washington Bridge is a mess without closing lanes. For anyone who has had to sit in traffic trying to get to the Lincoln Tunnel or any other access point to Manhattan, they know how a single broken down vehicle in the right lane could snarl traffic for hours. But in the end, as concerns Chris Christie, “This too shall pass.”
Finally, as Fox News commentator and host Neil Cavuto asked, can we please cease the “-gate” suffix to every alleged political scandal. Its use is growing old and tired and, quite frankly, boring.