The Facts: The Bridge-Gate scandal continues for the popular Governor Christie (R-NJ). After emails surfaced that top aides to the Governor closed lanes on the country’s busiest bridge as a form of political retribution directed at the mayor of Fort Lee (Mark Sokolich — a Democrat) for not endorsing the Governor in last year’s election, people are getting fired and Christie was forced to give a 100+ minute press conference today, denying any knowledge while taking responsibility.
As background, the George Washington Bridge had several lanes of traffic diverted back in September 2013 coming from the town of Fort Lee, NJ. At the time, the reasoning was a “traffic study” which later turned out to be false. There were rumblings that this was political payback, but Christie joked at the notion at press conferences. Then the emails surfaced that make it clear the diverted lanes were punishment:
Christie Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly (since fired): “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Port Authority Official Wildstein (Christie Appointee since resigned): “Got it.”
The Spin: The scandal has attracted the media attention from all sides — since Christie is widely considered a presidential candidate in 2016 and recently polled ahead against Hillary Clinton. Liberals contend that he must have known about this, given his micro-management, and it plays into the narrative that the Christie administration bullies it’s political opponents through any means possible, and therefore not Presidential material and more Nixonian. Conservatives are taking Christie’s denial of knowledge at face value right now, but seem caught flat-footed, with no way of defending the actions themselves, but touting the swiftness in which Christie is dealing with the problem once the emails surfaced as an important leadership quality (vs. President Obama’s Benghazi, IRS, ACA, and NSA issues, of course).
Chiou On This: This story is everywhere, on TV and all over the blogs, from liberals and conservatives
(this isn’t a case of certain outlets ignoring the story). Oops, this piece from Media Matters tells a different story. We’ll have to wait to see how this story plays out as the facts are revealed. What did/didn’t Christie know? Were crimes committed? Was there a cover-up? Investigations are ongoing at both the state and federal level at this point. We are presently taking Christie at face-value that he didn’t know this was happening — if it turns out he boldly lied to the American people over the course of 100 minutes, his future political aspirations are over. During Obama’s IRS and NSA scandals, Conservatives blasted his “lack of leadership” for claiming to not know anything about them, so we’ll be interested to see how they respond here without being hypocritical (doubtful). Also, NewsBusters (Conservative) claims here this story has already got 17x more coverage in the last 3 days than Obama’s IRS scandal in 6 months. Conversely, Fox News just can’t help but link every Christie story to Obama’s handling of Benghazi, according to Media Matters (Liberal), which doesn’t come as a shock given Roger Ailes’s love of Christie and supposed lobbying to get him to run for President in 2012. Given Christie’s 2016 presidential ambitions and his role as the RGA Head, we doubt this story will go away anytime soon — be prepared for the Liberal attacks on Christie to continue (and the Conservative “this is how a leader acts” defense). It’s a feeding frenzy right now…
Update: An alternate theory to Christie scandal by Rachel Maddow here (start at 9:15). She suggests that the closings were retribution against the leader of the state Senate Democrats who represents the county which Fort Lee happens to be a part of (Bergen) for denying tenure to a State Supreme Court judge who was the wife of someone in Christie’s administration. Interesting, but doesn’t take away from the fact that the lane closings still seem petty, not to mention how it would affect a state senator (vs. a mayor).