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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Drinking the Chris Christie Kool-Aid

Anybody who believes the New Jersey Governor Chris Christie didn't have information about the intentional George Washington Bridge lane closing, an antagonistic act attributed to political retribution, must be drinking Republican Kool-Aid laced with Tinkerbell dust.

Of course, there's a distinct line between knowing about the lane closing and directing the obstruction. Nevertheless, if something walks like a duck, it's usually is related to the family, said Dick Cheney. Also, you can't put lipstick on a pig, says Sarah Palin, by claiming Christie didn't have knowledge when he clearly had to have known about the closures. All of which is to say, you're the company you keep. Governor Christie was among those people who admitted to closing down the George Washington Bridge lane leading to Ft. Lee, just because the city's mayor didn't endorse the governor's re-election campaign. Therefore, he's guilty by association.
New York Magazine writer Jonathan Chait describes six reasons why Christie is guilty. If the daunting investigation proves anything in a way to taint the New Jersey governor, the scandal will be more damaging the the myths concocted against the Clinton administration during the Whitewater investigations. Nothing of substance was ever found in the witch hunt to incriminate the charges brought up against the Clintons, although a some of their friends were threatened with prison in hopes they would somehow turn states evidence, which never happened. In the case of Governor Christie, it seems to me, the outrageous behavior his arrogant staff took to close the Ft. Lee bridge lane was indicative of a deeper problem within Christie's management style. In other words, he's a Tony Soprano style bully.

Here are Chait's six reasons to believe Governor Christie is guilty:
The New York Times reports that David Wildstein, the Port Authority official who oversaw punitive lane closings at the George Washington Bridge, had evidence that Chris Christie knew about it. The Times quickly changed its wording to reflect that fact that Wildstein merely says “evidence exists” that Christie knew.

The wording change prompted a familiar Chinese fire drill of reporters, after having rushed to proclaim Christie’s political demise, to mock the Times and caution that Christie may survive this yet. And he might! Sometimes people who appear very guilty turn out to be innocent. (See: Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction.) But usually, people who appear very guilty turn out to be guilty (Julie's note, as Dick Cheney said, if it walks like a Duck...). And Christie appears very guilty.

1. Wildstein is claiming evidence exists that Christie knew. He would look bad if such evidence does not come to light.

2. Wildstein spent time with Christie while the lanes were closed. If you had been ordered to close traffic lines for punitive reasons, and you saw the governor, wouldn’t you either tell him about it, or else already know he approved? Undertaking an action like that without knowing the governor approved it, and without having any desire to take credit, seems like an implausible motivation.

3. Christie has changed his story about when he knew about the lane closings. Having first asserted he learned on October 1, Christie later claimed he learned earlier, though would not say when.

4. His campaign manager is pleading the fifth.

5. Carrying out petty retribution is fully in keeping with the pattern of Christie’s governing style of using petty retribution.

6. Allegations of abuse of power predate even Christie's governorship. Chait keeps mentioning the report in John Heilemann and Mark Halperin’s campaign book about the Romney campaign vetting of Christie, because he  find it mystifying that others aren’t taking it as seriously as I am. It’s not that partisan enemies are ginning up accusations. Republican Mitt Romney wanted to nominate Christie, but took a look at the vetting file and ran the other way:

More than once, Myers reported back that Trenton’s response was, in effect, "Why do we need to give you that piece of information?" Myers told her team, "We have to assume if they’re not answering, it’s because the answer is bad".

The vetters were stunned by the garish controversies lurking in the shadows of his record. There was a 2010 Department of Justice inspector general’s investigation of Christie’s spending patterns in his job prior to the governorship, which criticized him for being “the U.S. attorney who most often exceeded the government [travel expense] rate without adequate justification” and for offering “insufficient, inaccurate, or no justification” for stays at swank hotels like the Four Seasons. There was the fact that Christie worked as a lobbyist on behalf of the Securities Industry Association at a time when Bernie Madoff was a senior SIA official—and sought an exemption from New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act. There was Christie’s decision to steer hefty government contracts to donors and political allies like former Attorney General John Ashcroft, which sparked a congressional hearing. There was a defamation lawsuit brought against Christie arising out of his successful 1994 run to oust an incumbent in a local Garden State race. Then there was Todd Christie, the Governor’s brother, who in 2008 agreed to a settlement of civil charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission in which he acknowledged making “hundreds of trades in which customers had been systematically overcharged.” (Todd also oversaw a family foundation whose activities and purpose raised eyebrows among the vetters.)

Everything here is circumstantial. Christie definitely comes off as the kind of politician who would order a stunt like this. Possibly he didn’t do it. Possibly he did, but it will never be proven. His best-case scenario now appears to be an absence of a smoking gun, and convincing voters not to believe the subordinate pointing a finger at him. It doesn’t look good.

Chait leaves an open door to the potential for Christie to find a way out of the mess he's created for himself. But, if "what goes around comes around" holds true, then the mythical scandals of the Clinton years will come home to roost, if Christie is ever nominated as leader of the Republican Party.

Anybody who really believes Governor Christie is innocent in Bridgegate, the deliberate lane closing, must be drinking Republican Kook-Aid laced with Tinkerbell dust.

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