The New York Times reports this morning:
A series of newly obtained emails and text messages shows that Gov. Chris Christie’s office was closely involved with lane closings on the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge in September, and that officials closed the lanes as retribution against the Democratic mayor whose town was gridlocked as a result.
According to the North Jersey Media Group, the lane closures crippled the town of Fort Lee, causing hours of delays, while confounding emergency vehicles and stranding children in school buses. The Times confirms “Mr. Christie’s staff and appointees appeared gleeful when the abrupt lane closings gridlocked the town for days, beginning with the first day of school and including the anniversary of Sept. 11.”
It’s been widely suggested that the closures were ordered in retribution for Mayor Mark Sokolich’s failure to endorse the Guv during the recent election. Sokolich (a Democrat) protested at the time: “How dare [Governor Christie] schedule a man-made traffic disaster in my community? […] It’s the example of the pettiest and most venomous side of politics.”
The Times concedes the emails and texts don't prove that the governor called for the lane closing himself. However, they do suggest his staff “was intimately involved, contradicting Mr. Christie’s repeated avowals that no one in his office or campaign knew.”
I realize that, on its face, this scandal may not seem so scandalous. It may even speak to the mischievous gamesmanship that swells Governor Christie's national swagger. Frankly, anyone who’s spent any time driving through, over, or around the GWB knows it would be hard to discern a government-ordered traffic armaggedon from your average weekday commute.
I’m not ashamed to admit that my gut reaction (with apologies to proud New Jerseyan Ben Brophy) ran along the lines of “Well, even in Jersey, there’s got to be some perks to the governor’s gig.”
Then it occurred to me: If Chris Christie (or the people with whom he surrounds himself) can wield power so trivially…so spitefully…imagine what he could do from the Oval Office. On the heels of the IRS’s inquisition and revelations of sweeping NSA surveillance, incidents like this should give us pause about who we want to exercise such incredible authority over our day-to-day.
Our government—comprised of Democrats and Republicans alike—remains the single greatest threat to our rights and liberties. Let’s be careful who we put in charge.