Is Christie just a typical NJ boss after all?

NJ Gov. Chris Christie (Image: Reuters/Jason Reed)
NJ Gov. Chris Christie (Image: Reuters/Jason Reed)

New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie (R) is suddenly up to his armpits in manure as the media try to figure out what he knew and when he knew it. Or why he didn’t know it. It seems his office is at the center of a scandal about the September closure of the George Washington Bridge, said closure being an act of political retribution against Fort Lee, NJ, Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat who did not endorse Christie’s reelection campaign.

Apparently Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s deputy chief of staff for legislative and intergovernmental affairs, sent an email to David Wildstein, then the highest-level appointee representing the state at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the bridge connecting the two states. In that email Kelly said, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Wildstein replied “Got it.”

Still unknown is whether Kelly issued that go-ahead on her own or under orders from Christie.

The governor, denying any knowledge of the plot, fired Kelly yesterday, and today a judge ruled that Wildstein must testify before a state assembly committee investigating the scandal.

Nevertheless, the focus remains on Christie, who hopes to run for president in 2016. It’s difficult to believe he didn’t know about something happening right under his nose in his own office. It’s difficult to believe that he could demonstrate such concern for his constituents after Hurricane Sandy but let the busiest bridge in the US remain snarled for four days without acting aggressively to fix the problem. It’s difficult to believe, as some have reported, that he wasn’t even aware of the gridlock. He does, after all, have aides. He has phones. He has a television. It’s difficult to believe all of this, but Christie has steadfastly denied any knowledge of the the plot and so far there is no evidence to the contrary.

I don’t want to believe that, after I finally overcame my mental stereotypes of NJ bosses and thugs and accepted Christie as a blunt but honest Republican who works across party lines to get things done, he’s turning out to be a just another NJ lowlife after all. Look at how stupid and unnecessary the plan was; he was winning his election by a wide margin.

Why would he risk his presidential aspirations with something as petty as a bridge closure? Is he really just another vindictive little man with plenty of political clout and no scruples?

I want to believe Christie knew nothing about this. But it’s a tough sell right now.

15 thoughts on “Is Christie just a typical NJ boss after all?

  1. Yes, and I want to believe there’s a god….This was a very disappointing story, and the fact that a woman died because EMS couldn’t get to her, makes it all the more disheartening. But, honestly, who would take rejection from Mayor Sokolich personally? Christie’s staff? Doubtful. At the end of the day, what do they care? Christie? …Likely.

    1. I could see young, overly zealous staffers taking it upon themselves to get revenge against an opponent, and I can see it being every bit as sophomoric and ill-considered as this bridge closure. (“So we snarl a little traffic? What’s the harm?”) But slightly more responsible staffers wouldn’t do anything with possible political ramifications without orders from higher up. And in this case the higher up would be Christie. And I can see him either (a) being much too smart to order something this stupid or (b) being much too brash and short-tempered to consider the long-term fallout from such a fit of pique. I don’t know. I really don’t. But if even a hint of evidence turns up that Christie had a hand in this, or knew about it, he’s toast. Charred. To a crisp.

      1. @PT For sure!! In a way, I really, really hope he didn’t have a hand in it. So many leaders make so many poor decisions, and I guess it would just be nice to know there are some leaders on both sides of the isle who have some sort of standards….


        1. Oh, I agree. I hope he comes through this with completely clean hands. I have enjoyed his bluntness. and outspokenness, even though it may not be a good style for the White House (don’t know about that). I have enjoyed his popularity and how it annoys the more conservative wing of his party. I have been heartened to see that a moderate Republican governor can and will put aside party politics to join hands with a Democratic president to help the people of NJ. More than anything else, I want to see that just this once, a politician has not lied to me.

  2. From what I’ve heard about Christie, he is a hands-on micro-manager who keeps up with all details of his office. It’s a common trait of strong leaders and I’ve known more than my share of them. So I see two possibilities here, neither of them good for Christie and his presidential aspirations:

    1. Christie’s management style is poor and he can not manage a staff, much less the armed forces and a whole country. (How’s he done with NJ?)
    2. Christie did know about the scheme and put his staff and his buddy/school chum in the bridge sinecure job up to it, in which case he is a liar and lacks maturity and gravitas.

    1. I must admit it doesn’t look good. It’s possible, of course, for staff to do things on their own that the boss doesn’t know about, but that seems unlikely with something this big.

      Oh, and my impression, based on what little I’ve heard, is that he’s managed NJ pretty well. Balanced the budget even though working with a Democratic legislature, and a sterling performance after Hurricane Sandy.

      I’m interested to see how it all plays out.

  3. i want to believe it too, but i always wonder about the ‘i didn’t know what was going on at the highest level, while on my watch’ defense. how would he be as a president ?

    1. Sure. Can’t help but be suspicious. And while a smoking gun will prove he was involved, there’s no concrete way to prove he wasn’t involved. The suspicion will always be there. His political opponents must be loving this.

    1. Well, he wouldn’t be the first politician to think a little philandering is part of the job description rather than a disqualification. It’s disappointing, but not surprising

      1. You’re right. It comes with the territory. Thing is, once the press gets a handle on that, as one would expect them to should he run for president, that kind of thing can still end a candidacy. The trick is to keep their eyes off you, and now their eyes are on him. Timing is everything, though, and it’s still early yet. We’ll see. You know how the media. Very short attention sp–LOOK, SHINY NEW SCANDAL!

  4. “His political opponents must be loving this.”

    If Christi was a Democrat, I’d suspect that he was being framed by a Republican. Being a Republican though, suspecting the noble, honest, trustworthy, brave, clean and reverent Democrats of such a thing is out of the question.

    1. A Republican governor in a Blue (with a capital B) state? My first thought was a Democratic plot (if one assumes Dems are smart enough to think of something so devious). Theories abound. Rachel Maddow, for example, has suggested the whole thing had nothing to do with the Fort Lee mayor. I find the whole incident intriguing and can’t wait for the next revelation …

  5. Great job by you and the comment writers of showing why this is a lose-lose situation for Christie. If he really didn’t know, he’s a lousy manager and leader. If he did, he’s a petulant kid who doesn’t deserve high office. Simply firing staff people probably is not going to be enough to save him.

    1. What I hate most is the uncertainty about his involvement, which may never be resolved. In recent years I’ve tended to root for any moderate Republican who seems willing to stand up to the conservative extremists in the party — partly because I’d like to have a viable GOP option if I don’t like the Dems’ nominee. I wanted to vote for Jon Huntsman in 2012, but the Teapublicans didn’t see fit to nominate him. I was thinking Christie might be that candidate in 2016, but it seems doubtful now. (He’s no Jon Huntsman, that’s for sure.)

... and that's my two cents