It’s baffling how New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s governing style and personality traits are viewed as despicable by some and admirable by others.
Christie’s fans describe him as being confident, forthright, decisive and for “telling it like it is.”
His detractors, based on those same traits, interpret them as being arrogant, rude, hot-headed, nasty and bullying.
As they say, one person’s trash is another man’s treasure.
Questions about the George Washington bridge closing are popping up like bright-orange road cones. In a long press conference Jan. 9, Christie denied – again – any previous knowledge of that scandal.
For those who haven’t followed the dirty deed, here’s a brief summary: Without notification, from Sept. 9-13, two of three eastbound lanes of the George Washington bridge leading from Fort Lee, N.J. to New York City were closed. The bridge over the Hudson River is the busiest one in the world. The closings caused massive traffic jams at the bridge and throughout the city of Fort Lee and beyond. People found it almost impossible to get to work. School children were stuck in traffic for two hours and more. Emergency vehicles had trouble getting to scenes of crises.
At first, everyone was told the lanes were closed because of a “traffic study.” That was quickly proven to be a lie. Then, it appeared to be an act of sabotage, political revenge for Fort Lee’s mayor not endorsing Christie for his then-upcoming re-election as governor.
What was known weeks ago is that two members of the Port Authority, which controls the bridge, were Christie appointees who have since resigned. One had been a high-school buddy of Christie’s. During press conferences, Christie poo-poohed the ruckus over the bridge closing, firing off sarcastic, flippant answers in his (take your pick) arrogant/forthright way.
Then, on Jan. 8, a smoking gun popped up in the form of an email exchange. It was sent just before the lane closings from Christie aide Bridget Kelly to David Wildstein, Christie’s high-school friend on the Port Authority.
Kelly: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
Wildstein: “Got it.”
At his marathon press conference the next day, Christie fired Kelly, apologized to the people of Fort Lee and went to that city to apologize to its mayor. The governor’s comments, however, have just raised more questions. The mess is now called “Bridgegate,” dubbed as such after the “Watergate” scandal that led to the demise of President Nixon.
Why should we care about a New Jersey bridge? We should care because Christie is the top Republican contender for the 2016 presidential election. Even if he was not involved, the fiasco has raised many questions about his competency as a leader – as governor or president.
Why didn’t he make an immediate effort to find out why those lanes were closed?
Why would a top aide in his office, all on her own out of the blue, suggest the closings if there were not a general consensus among top Christie operatives to enact a political vendetta against Fort Lee?
Why would Wildstein email back “Got it” unless he knew exactly what Kelly was suggesting (lane closings), meaning it had already been considered?
Why would Christie callously dismiss and joke about the traffic jams when he must have known the chaos and disruptions they caused to so many people, including children on their way to school?
Why, in his Jan. 9 press conference, did he spend so much time in a “woe-is-me” mode rather than explaining why he’d ignored the scandal for so long?
Why was there obviously such a lack of communication in the governor’s office, with one hand not knowing what the other was doing?
Has the governor’s office used such outrageously inexcusable vendettas against other “enemies?”
At the very least “Bridgegate” suggests Christie was not in command. At the worst, it shows him to have been unconnected, unaware, insensitive and arrogant – in a word, a bully. Which is not to say that Christie is not presidential material. There hasn’t been a president in history without some deficiencies in judgment and character flaws. However, it’s almost a sure bet that “Bridgegate” will close at least a couple “open” lanes along Christie’s hopeful trip to the presidency.