Governor Chris Christi & The G.W. Bridge Shuffle
With all of the furor surrounding the fiasco of creating massive traffic jams for four days in September 2013 at the approaches to the George Washington Bridge, there is much to be learned about the facts of this case. On January 10, 2014, Governor Chris Christi faced reporters for two hours, he seemed quite upset, declared his innocence, and spoke of the actions he had taken and will be taking.
There are two primary reasons that people declare their innocence in a matter such as this: one is because they don’t want to own up to their actions, errors, and accountability and the other reason is because they’re innocent. As I write, there’s no information that I’ve seen that proves that the Governor knew about this or authorized his staff or his appointees at The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to take this action. The bulk of the evidence is email transimissions and that doesn’t mean that a cagey person can’t relay commands verbally to avoid such documentation. This is particularly true of people in high office who delegate communications constantly and in confidential “executive” session.
To briefly review what seems to factually determined at this point is that a man by the name of David Wildstein, who was appointed by Governor Christi to a high paying, executive position with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey ordered lanes to be closed during rush hour on the busiest bridge in the world on September 6, 2013 and the lane closing occurred on September 9th – 12th . Wildstein, is an avid Christi supporter was also a friend of the Governor when they were in school. For years, the political appointements to the executive positions of the Port Authority were noted to be acts of cronyism and political patronage, and not finding the best people to fill the important, powerful and complex jobs.
The current case seems to suggest that the denial of politicians who consistently state that making these appointments are based on talent and competence are hollow and meaningless. The appoinments are financial plums handed to favorites. It’s a profoundly flawed process.
The Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Bridget Ann Kelly, on August 13, 2013 sent an email to Wildstein which read “time for some traffic in Fort Lee.” The reply from Wildsteind came within moments and was simply “Got it.” This brief correspondence clearly indicates to me that this wasn’t an idea that simply popped up and was acted on with thoughtless spontaneity, there was a history, a plan or a discussion that was being put into effect on August 13th . It was pre-meditated.
So why did they want to back up traffic into Fort Lee? It seems the Mayor of Fort Lee, Mark Sokolich, who is a democrat, wasn’t willing to back Governor Christi’s gubernatorial reelection and this was retaliation for the Mayor exercising his freedom of speech, freedom and fundamental right to make a choice.
Here’s a hypothetical situation to consider: If I was ticked off at the way things are in this state, and actually I am, and I decided to create a monumental traffic jam to make a statement and demonstrate my pwer, I’d be arrested. I’d be prosecuted. Was this action by the Governor’s supporters about demonstrating power? Yes it was, that and more. If Governor Christi is sincere about being repulsed by this behavior, he needs to support vigorous prosecution, let them have their day in court and if convicted, whack the bastards. No pardons Governor, let the consequence happen.
David Wildstein didn’t get fired: he quit. His attorney said he was going to anyway. Did he have the authority to do what he did? Was it abuse of power? Was it illegal to block traffic? No soft landing here Governor: Whack him. Yes, I know, he’s a friend and likely a financial supporter too. Did you know that politicians sometimes give very nice jobs to “thank” financial supporters? I hope this doesn’t leave you breathless, but they do.
Bridget Ann Kelly was fired. This is someone who was so close to the Governor, was he totally obvlivious to what she was doing and saying? Was she believing that she had the right to do this? Was it abuse of her authority? How could she order such a thing? Come on Prosecutors,do it: Whack her.
Let Wildstein and Kelly, and any other person who acted on this, covered it, or who was in a positition of responsibility and failed to exercise that responsibility appear in court. Let their attorneys give good faith, aggressive defense and see what comes squeezing out of the proceedings. I would be charged if I did what they did. They should be charged for doing what they did.
Governor Christi has been trying to overcome a reputation of being a bully. This doesn’t help – if he’s not a bully then some of the people very close to him that he entrusted and empowered sure as hell are. He also is trying to show he can work over political party divides and find solutions. Using political power to punish people who don’t agree with you, don’t side with you, don’t vote for you or openly question you is an attempt at tyrannical suppression of free speech. It’s an attack on what it means to vote your conscience and beliefs. It’s despicable.
So is the Governor a bully? I don’t know: I think he might be. I have to question the values that drove his office, the behind the scene conversations, and the thinking behind strategies that launched this stupid, foolish act by people who arguably are intelligent enough to get to high levels of public service and exercise public abuse. What’s the culture behind the public declarations of compassion, caring and open mindedness? I can’t judge someone’s intent, I can only judge their actions.They know their intent. I do know a foul smell when I encounter one.
Political appointees tend to get soft landings in cases like this. She lost her job? She should have lost her job. She’ll get another one and if it doesn’t go to court, her story will end with a pile of emails. We’re a nation of laws: “poorly written and randomly enforced” according to the remarkable statesman Frank Zappa.
Perhaps one day, laws will be truly observed and uniformly enforced. This blog is being written the day after Major League Baseball suspended one of the game’s greatest superstars, Alex Rodriguez, for an entire season for violating the well established drug policy. He’s one of baseballs’ most recognized players, certainly one of the richest and they found he didn’t follow the rules so they gave him a consequence and in the process sent a message to others who may consider abusing drugs or using performance enhancing drugs. “It doesn’t matter who you are, the rules are going to be applied.” Good message I think.
Perhaps our political leaders need to consider this example. Perhaps, one day, we’ll see Police Officers willing to arrest another Police Officer who drives drunk rather than let him or her go on driving or carry him or her home. Don’t tell me it doesn’t happen: it absolutely does happen. Perhaps one day, politicians will enforce the laws on themselves, their own staff, friends and cronies who violate the law and do what they all swear to do when they take the oath of office: uphold the constitution.
When pigs fly.
What’s your opinion? I’d like to hear from you. Respond on this blog or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org I promise that if you disagree, I won’t cause a major traffic jam in your town to punish you. That promise, however, doesn’t extend to my staff.