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Christie & The Bridge

Well, this is a thing, innit?: [1]

Gov. Chris Christie repeatedly apologized to the people of New Jersey on Thursday, saying he was “embarrassed and humiliated” by revelations that a top aide and appointees ordered lane closings on the George Washington Bridge to deliberately snarl traffic as an act of political vengeance.

In a somber and humbling news conference in Trenton, Mr. Christie said he was “blindsided” when he learned of a series of emails that showed intimate involvement by close associates to punish a Democratic mayor who had declined to endorse the governor for his re-election.

Mr. Christie’s comments came after weeks of steadfast denials by the governor that his administration was involved.

“I am a very sad person today,” he said.

Hmm. Yes, this was a cheap political stunt that Christie’s aides pulled. And as Scott Galupo says [2], it does seem that it didn’t require any deliberation at all on the part of Team Christie to pull this kind of prank. Did Christie know about it in advance — or is it the case that Christie insiders knew the boss wouldn’t mind them playing hardball with his opponents?

I don’t suppose I’m sorry to see Christie twist in the wind over this abuse of power, but mostly I’m thinking, “Um, this is New Jersey. This surprises people?” Believe me, I’m saying this as somebody from Louisiana. It wouldn’t much surprise me if it happened here. Wouldn’t make me happy. But wouldn’t make me think it was the worst thing ever. As with Rudy Giuliani’s jackassery, it’s kind of the point of Chris Christie, isn’t it? He doesn’t mind being abrasive, because he leads in a political environment where being Mr. Nice Guy gets you run over.

The problem here is that he — or his staff — were jackasses not for the greater good, but for unjustifiable reasons, i.e., simply because they held power. In cases like that, comeuppance is always deserved.

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48 Comments To "Christie & The Bridge"

#1 Comment By Leinad On January 9, 2014 @ 3:48 pm

John Stewart’s take on the whole thing is awesome. Some of the show’s best writing in years:

[3]

#2 Comment By Squeaker Boehner On January 9, 2014 @ 3:54 pm

Agreed. And no, this isn’t terribly surprising, given the culture of New Jersey politics. And unless it inconvenienced emergency vehicles, there was no serious harm to public safety or anything like that. But what gives me pause (as someone who likes Christie more than not) is how this sort of approach might translate onto the national stage. President Christie would have far, far more devices at hand to inflict pain on political opponents. If this is how he views the levers of power, I’m wary of giving him the keys to the really big pieces of government machinery.

#3 Comment By RadicalCenter2016 On January 9, 2014 @ 3:55 pm

Fire everyone involved and publicly humiliate them for their dictatorial interference in regular people’s lives. Anything less and Christie shouldn’t be trusted.

#4 Comment By Connie On January 9, 2014 @ 3:59 pm

I’m just waiting for the reporter investigations into prior “traffic studies” in New Jersey. The way the staffer’s email was worded makes it sound like this was a known practice.

#5 Comment By mrscracker On January 9, 2014 @ 4:00 pm

Well, with Edwin Edwards supposedly considering a run for congress, I’m not in much of a position to comment on other states’ politician lapses.Except, what plays in Louisiana or New Jersey doesn’t always play in a national election.
(My son told me Gov. Edwards would probably win in a heartbeat, too.)

#6 Comment By charles cosimano On January 9, 2014 @ 4:03 pm

It’s in New Jersey. It’s good for a laugh.

#7 Comment By CK On January 9, 2014 @ 4:10 pm

“Wouldn’t make me happy. But wouldn’t make me think it was the worst thing ever.”

Well, I guess if you were dying in an ambulance and waiting hours to get to the hospital all because of this jackassery, you might think it was the worst thing ever.

#8 Comment By Pasha On January 9, 2014 @ 4:11 pm

“Believe me, I’m saying this as somebody from Louisiana. It wouldn’t much surprise me if it happened here.”

Didn’t Huey Long invent this breed of politics?

[NFR: Some medieval popes placed entire cities under interdict (withholding the Sacraments from their people) to achieve political advantage. Compared to Boniface VIII, the Kingfish was an amateur. — RD[

#9 Comment By Jay On January 9, 2014 @ 4:20 pm

I don’t suppose I’m sorry to see Christie twist in the wind over this abuse of power, but mostly I’m thinking, “Um, this is New Jersey. This surprises people?” Believe me, I’m saying this as somebody from Louisiana. It wouldn’t much surprise me if it happened here. Wouldn’t make me happy. But wouldn’t make me think it was the worst thing ever. As with Rudy Giuliani’s jackassery, it’s kind of the point of Chris Christie, isn’t it?

Maybe so, but do we want this sort running the country? Just because New Jersey and Louisiana are cesspools doesn’t mean that the rest of us have to suffer for it.

#10 Comment By DS On January 9, 2014 @ 4:23 pm

Whatever. I commute for work from suburban Jefferson Parish to the city of New Orleans. It’s exceedingly common for Orleans cops to set up speed traps at the parish line to catch speeders on the way into the city. Fair enough — public safety and all. But they also set traps at the parish line to get people on the way home, just as they are about to leave New Orleans — sticking it to the suburbanites for the perceived good of the city. (Full disclosure: they keep nabbing my wife, who refuses to use cruise control.)

Similarly, the N.O. city council is about to consider removing the residency requirement for cops. That requirement is periodically imposed in a racially charged atmosphere. Now they’re thinking of getting rid of the residency requirement, again, because they can’t recruit and retain enough qualified candidates.

So closing a bridge and creating traffic jams as political retribution? BFD.

#11 Comment By Liam On January 9, 2014 @ 4:25 pm

“Optics” scandals are not my favorite kind, shall we say, but Christie’s main vulnerability is that he is a “hot” personality in a country that prefers “warm” personalities to hot or cold personalities, without a compensating life story like being a military hero of some sort that has traditionally been the requirement to bump past that problem.

And our presidential elections in the age of mass broadcast media are largely ruddered by assessment of personality, not policy.

Christie’s going to have to pay at least as much attention to self-management of his personality as his physique. It does NOT require him to be focused-group and other-managed – that’s NOT self-management, but something very different. If he demonstrates HE is capable of much better SELF-management, voters will take that into consideration as they assess the arc of what he presents to them.

The problem for anyone in his shoes is that self-management requires substantial devotion of energy, while the nature of our political campaigns (and presidential governance) make overwhelming claims on those stores of energy.

#12 Comment By Squeaker Boehner On January 9, 2014 @ 4:29 pm

Hmm. On the other hand, there does seem to be some question about disruptions to emergency services (e.g., [4])

#13 Comment By DeepSouthPopulist On January 9, 2014 @ 4:43 pm

I stand by the comment I made in the other discussion. Christie is unfit for office based on his NSA position alone.

#14 Comment By Wax Rhapsodic On January 9, 2014 @ 4:45 pm

I think that Jon Stewart spoke for all of us who live in New Jersey when he observed that it wasn’t the political corruption, but the arrogance and incompetence of it. It wasn’t so much that they did it that surprises, but that they didn’t even attempt to be sneaky about it.

I actually find it sad because, now suddenly, people care that Christie is a bully. Demonizing teachers and firemen for wanting to protect their pensions was fine with the electorate, yelling at a Navy Seal for expressing a contrary opinion, bullying voters at the Jersey Shore to the point of near fisticuffs. That was all hailed as no-nonsense politics. To me it just seems like a pattern of ugly behavior.

And say what you want about New Jersey and our culture of corruption, Governor Christie has managed to turn a lack of fundamental civility into an asset. It’s dispiriting.

#15 Comment By Carol On January 9, 2014 @ 4:51 pm

Rudy Giuliani’s jackassery? Rudy helped make my city liveable again.

[NFR: Absolutely, he did, and God bless him for it. I never had the chance to vote for him; when I moved to NYC, he was in his final term. However, he really was a jackass. I praise him for his jackassery, because that’s exactly what was needed in NYC in his day. But that’s also why he didn’t play well outside of the city when he ran for president. — RD]

#16 Comment By Lord Karth On January 9, 2014 @ 4:53 pm

What part of “Human beings do stupid things” doesn’t anyone understand ?

Your servant,

Lord Karth

#17 Comment By Phil On January 9, 2014 @ 4:54 pm

I find it extremely hard to believe that Christie didn’t know. Your inner circle takes its habits from its leaders. They’ve been with him from the start.

#18 Comment By Noah172 On January 9, 2014 @ 5:26 pm

he leads in a political environment where being Mr. Nice Guy gets you run over

Tom Kean was not an asshole, and he was the most popular governor in New Jersey history.

#19 Comment By reflectionephemeral On January 9, 2014 @ 5:38 pm

Chris Hayes tweeted earlier today that in a corruption bracket, his Final Four would be NJ, LA, IL, and RI. I’m at a loss to improve upon that list.

#20 Comment By arrScott On January 9, 2014 @ 5:52 pm

A cheap stunt? Yes. But political? Not so much. The action wasn’t aimed at an actual political opponent, rival, or enemy – it was aimed at a more or less random collection of bystanders. (For “bystanders,” read, “Christie’s constituents.”) “Endorse me or a bunch of random people will be late for work” isn’t a political act. It’s bizarre, and sociopathic, and dictionary-definition terrorism. But it’s not political, in any meaningful sense of what politics is or does.

And secondly, even if we wanted to stretch the word “political” to its outermost limits to cover this behavior, it only works as politics if it seen to be done by or for the governor against a rival as a result of something the rival did or failed to do. The total denial, from the get-go, indicates that while those who perpetrated this calumny did so motivated by a political grievance, they did not undertake it as a political act.

It’s like, if I got so angry at the political stance inherent in a campaign sign on my neighbor’s yard that I went out and egged the local library branch in the middle of the night and later denied having done so, my motivation would be political. But my act itself would not be a political act. My anger may be rooted in a political grievance, but the resulting action served no political purpose and accomplished – could by definition not have accomplished – any political goal.

Sometimes, vandalism is just vandalism, even if a politician does it. This would seem to be such a case.

#21 Comment By Darth Thulhu On January 9, 2014 @ 5:58 pm

This kind of inherent jackassery is why I don’t think the national prospects of someone like Jindal, Barbour, or Christie are nearly as high as some believe.

Most Americans (and all Iowans, New Hampshirites, and South Carolinans) don’t live in corrupt cesspools of viciousness where you have to be a vicious, elbow-throwing jerk just to survive the quest for low-rank political office. My Congresswoman was frickin’ Gabby Giffords, for a point of comparison.

Let’s never forget how much certain parts of the internet still scream about how our half-Vulcan President, no-drama Obama himself, is somehow a “brutal Chicago thug”.

Most people don’t like flagrant jackassery from their leaders, which is why Congressional approval ratings are plummetting toward the single digits. Outside of minimum safe distance from Manhattan, Chicago, Boston, and New Orleans, people like it even less from their chief executives.

This unsurprising episode reminds people of what Christie is actually like, and has always been like. There is certainly more where this came from; Romney’s vetting team very blatantly took a pass on Christie in 2012. I just can’t imagine Christie will travel well in seeking a nationwide office, anymore than Giuliani did in 2008.

#22 Comment By jeff On January 9, 2014 @ 6:02 pm

Is it too much to expect good governance and leadership without the political payback and gamesmanship that hurts the average Joe?

#23 Comment By CatherineNY On January 9, 2014 @ 6:33 pm

I watched Governor Christie’s entire press conference today, and I think he did a great job. He has fired the people responsible for this disgusting episode, and has traveled to Fort Lee to apologize directly to those effected, including the Democratic mayor who was the supposed target. Anyone who knows New Jersey (and I’m a native who still spends a lot of time there) knows that the Governor himself certainly did not have time last August and September to focus on the closure of three lanes on the GW Bridge, even if he had been so inclined. Governor Christie remains the most competent and the most sane of the potential GOP candidates for President, and I certainly hope he makes it all the way.

#24 Comment By B On January 9, 2014 @ 6:54 pm

Hey, I was stuck in some of that traffic. And I pretty much agree with Wax. Christie portrayed Teachers and Firemen as being greedy for wanting to keep pension benefits. Never was it mentioned that Christie Whitman irresponsibly stopped funding a large portion of municipal pension benefits in the 90″s.

I know that many of you southerners have no time for unions but up here they are the measuring stick for the middle class.

That being said, New Jersey is like Disneyland compared to Yonkers NY (politics over public interest every time)…..”the city of hills where nothing is on the level”

#25 Comment By Tab On January 9, 2014 @ 6:57 pm

“how this sort of approach might translate onto the national stage”

I imagine this group of people would have followed Christie into the White House and his administration, were he elected president. They would have put the Nixon White House to shame, I suspect.

And what Connie said about their reactions to the idea making it sound almost routine.

#26 Comment By Noah172 On January 9, 2014 @ 7:16 pm

Demonizing teachers and firemen for wanting to protect their pensions was fine with the electorate

Because the electorate pays for those things. The obtuseness and sense of entitlement of unionized public employees can be quite stunning.

And, just in case you hadn’t noticed, good liberal Democrats in other states are doing the same thing: Cuomo in NY, Quinn and Emanuel in IL, Chafee (independent but liberal) in RI, and so on — everybody is looking to pare down public employee benefits because math is neither Republican nor Democratic. The money isn’t there, and voters have every right to favor current services over excessively generous payouts to yesterday’s civil “servants”.

BTW, I don’t care for Christie as a presidential contender (open borders, neocon foreign policy), so don’t even go there.

#27 Comment By charles cosimano On January 9, 2014 @ 7:28 pm

What I am finding so amusing about this are the poor dummies in the MSM who think that Christie would ever be a serious contender for the Presidency. What primaries could he win?

#28 Comment By jaybird On January 9, 2014 @ 8:03 pm

American voters will overlook a lot in their politicians, but I can’t really think of a better way to send the average American into a blind, near-homicidal rage than making them sit in a traffic jam on purpose.

#29 Comment By jamie On January 9, 2014 @ 8:41 pm

everybody is looking to pare down public employee benefits because math is neither Republican nor Democratic. The money isn’t there…

The money is there for tax cuts, for school vouchers, for stadiums and business improvement districts. Somebody’s contract is going to get broken, who’s is a question that is always open, it is simply a matter of priorities. Blaming “the math” is a typical rhetorical dodge, used by a speaker to cast his budget priorities as apolitical and objective, and insulate them from debate or democratic accountability.

Chris Hayes tweeted earlier today that in a corruption bracket, his Final Four would be NJ, LA, IL, and RI. I’m at a loss to improve upon that list.

Nevada surely beats Illinois. North Dakota, Delaware, Ohio and New York must be in the Sweet 16, if we drop the bland pretense that campaign fundraising is not in fact influence-peddling.

#30 Comment By Hibernian On January 9, 2014 @ 8:59 pm

reflectionephemeral: I think MA and TX would give the 4 you mentioned a run for their money.

#31 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 9, 2014 @ 9:32 pm

I have difficulty believing that Christie would have approved or instigated anything to utterly stupid and so poorly targeted. Cutting off state funds for the mayor’s signature program, sure, that would be politics as usual. But closing off lanes on one of the busiest bridges into upper Manhattan and the Bronx? Republicans use that bridge, both ways, people who can’t even vote in New Jersey because they live there drive across it, its not even effective revenge. The collateral damage is several times the enemy head count!

Christie is probably firing these doofuses because they couldn’t shoot straight.

(That aside, it was criminal and should be prosecuted, but for New Jersey, it was awfully low quality corruption, as Stewart highlighted at length.)

#32 Comment By Wax Rhapsodic On January 9, 2014 @ 9:54 pm

Because the electorate pays for those things. The obtuseness and sense of entitlement of unionized public employees can be quite stunning.

My comment had nothing to do with the relative merits of pension reform, which I believe legitimate and likely necessary.

But Governor Christie, in his inimitable way, found an unpopular opponent in public service employees. The difference, to my mind, between Governor Christie and other governors, is in style. Referring to teachers as “thugs” for instance.

Do pensions need to be reformed? Quite probably, yes. Does portraying the people who make $40,000 a year educating children or running into burning buildings as greedy serve our discourse? No.

As mentioned earlier in the thread, former Governor Kean, a Republican, is still very popular in New Jersey. As is, it seems to me, former Governor Christie Todd Whitman, also a Republican. It is not about the politics, but the style.

From afar, it may seem refreshing to have a Tony Soprano managing the state, but the ugliness of his behavior is beyond tiresome.

#33 Comment By M_Young On January 10, 2014 @ 5:22 am

“I have difficulty believing that Christie would have approved or instigated anything to utterly stupid and so poorly targeted.

One of my 2014 resolutions is to seek out areas of agreement with Siarlys, who seems a good chap. So let me second this. I mean, getting past the idiocy of putting this kind of crap in an email (or text) rather than arranging it by solely voice phone or (ideally) in person, didn’t these numbskulls realize that among the commuters going from Northern New Jersey to NYC would be a large proportion of Christie voters?

I mean, you shouldn’t even be targeting public amenities in the first place — there are plenty of other ways to inflict some political pain — but to choose a method that’s gonna inflict pain on your own…crazy.

#34 Comment By Elijah On January 10, 2014 @ 6:26 am

Meh, I don’t think anyone outside NY-NJ gives much of a hoot. As you pointed out, typical political jackassery amplified by our 24-hour media Scandal-O-Matics that Never Stop Making Mountains from Molehills.

#35 Comment By Elijah On January 10, 2014 @ 6:32 am

Jamie, I’m offended – you left out both Maryland and Pennsylvania! How could you! My father in law remembers contractors taking suitcases full of cash into various state buildings years ago.

And Waxy, old friend, I’ll take a pugnacious honesty any day over Slick Willie or Obama’s much vaunted “style”. People like Christie because they sense he’s not a typical bullsh**t artist.

#36 Comment By TTT On January 10, 2014 @ 8:40 am

This episode further exposes the vapidity of our media, focused as it is on this scandal’s impact on Christie being a presidential candidate in 2016, when by rights the question should be whether he will be a governor in March.

And he totally knew, btw. The advisors in question had been his friends / cronies since high school.

#37 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On January 10, 2014 @ 9:02 am

I think Squeaker Boehner has hit upon the important issue. Who cares about Christie’s political aspirations. Was anyone hurt by this knucklehead maneuver? Blocking traffic on a busy bridge would likely impede emergency vehicles, so this is a pretty serious abuse of power.

#38 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 10, 2014 @ 11:01 am

One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2013 was to recognize that M_Young and Noah_172 are really two very different people. They both have some perspectives on racial designation and immigration that I don’t share, but they even bring different perspectives to those areas of partial mutual agreement. In other ways, I find myself agreeing with one, or the other, when they are mutually at odds.

#39 Comment By Lord Karth On January 10, 2014 @ 11:43 am

reflectionephemeral writes: “Chris Hayes tweeted earlier today that in a corruption bracket, his Final Four would be NJ, LA, IL, and RI. I’m at a loss to improve upon that list.”

You forgot Albany, NY. Everyone knows that despite all “Governor” Cuomo’s protests, the public employees’ unions and the SEIU run this province. Cuomo and the provincial Lege dance to their harps.

Your servant,

Lord Karth

#40 Comment By Lord Karth On January 10, 2014 @ 11:47 am

Darth Thulhu writes: “Let’s never forget how much certain parts of the internet still scream about how our half-Vulcan President, no-drama Obama himself, is somehow a “brutal Chicago thug”.

Vulcan ? Not hardly. Mr. “Just Can’t Get Along Without My Teleprompter” is obviously a Pakled.

Your servant,

Lord Karth

#41 Comment By mrscracker On January 10, 2014 @ 12:09 pm

DS,
Do you mean you all don’t know anyone at court who can “fix” those tickets for you?
🙂

#42 Comment By Eric K On January 10, 2014 @ 3:03 pm

This native of Jersey is with Catherine and Siarlys on this one. If Christie truly didn’t know his aides were doing this and he’s being truthful he’ll have a rough couple months and come out fine in the end. But he should learn some lessons from it as well. If he did orchestrate the lane closures (and I can’t think of one good reason why he would do this), he should resign.

He’s answering press questions on this, taking responsibility and firing those who did wrong. Imagine if all our national leaders let the press ask them questions for two hours.

#43 Comment By Rob Maloney On January 10, 2014 @ 4:20 pm

Much as I’d like to believe Christie isn’t stupid enough to do something like this, I must reflect that the same might of been said of former NY Governor Eliot Spitzer and his fondness for women.

May I also say those in the other 49 states are fools if they believe, “It can’t happen here.” All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

#44 Comment By Noah172 On January 10, 2014 @ 7:33 pm

M_Young wrote:

there are plenty of other ways to inflict some political pain — but to choose a method that’s gonna inflict pain on your own…crazy

That’s not crazy, it’s the Stupid Party. Who gave us the 1986 illegal alien amnesty? Who is eager to send armed forces made up heavily of its voter base off to die in dumb wars? Who cheers the relocation to China of the factories which employ(ed) its voter base?

Ruining your own people’s commute? Heckuva job, GOP.

#45 Comment By Noah172 On January 10, 2014 @ 7:46 pm

One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2013 was to recognize that M_Young and Noah_172 are really two very different people

We “whites” aren’t all alike. 😉

I do work at having a distinctive voice around here. Did I really take so long in distinguishing myself?

#46 Comment By John On January 10, 2014 @ 9:05 pm

If Rod had readers from every state and territory of the US they would add their own state to the mix. Something tells me this happens erywhere. It’s sad, but probably true.

#47 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 11, 2014 @ 7:14 pm

And one MORE way this is stupid, is that the aides went to some lengths to make this political payback LOOK like ordinary lane closures.

If you want to punish your enemies for failing to support you, you want them to KNOW they are suffering, and to know WHY, so they will fall into line next time.

E.g., a speaker of the house who removes someone from a committee chairmanship because they bucked the party line on an important floor vote… there is no impact if you let them think it was a random or legitimately meritocratic decision. You might let the insiders know the raw, naked truth, while piously telling something else to the press… but “Buono voters” aren’t available to whisper in their ears “you’re stuck in traffic because you voted wrong.”

I recall a migrant worker I once knew who talked about being fired from a road job in Rochester, NY the day after an election because “You went Democrat on us.” He responded “Why didn’t you tell me this was a Republican town?” He knew the rules, he just didn’t know which party ran the machine. (Yes, there were many Republican machines, including Bill Thompson’s in Chicago).

This doesn’t even fly as political pay-back. Its making people suffer so that a small cabal of perpetrators can enjoy their suffering, with no induced change in future behavior.

#48 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 11, 2014 @ 7:18 pm

Noah, a couple of years ago, when there was a lot more loud debate here about race and immigration, I did think of you and M_Young as kind of the Bobsey Twins on those issues. Over time, I’ve noticed you have markedly different takes on other issues, but I’ve also noticed that you have subtlely different perspectives on race. Yours is perhaps a bit more intellectual, bordering on aristocratic, while Young’s is more meat and potatoes, but its more complex than even that. Also, I’ve been described as a tag team or member of a large cabal dedicated to all manner of things I have no commitment to, so I know how such characterizations can play out.