Something's Still Fishy in Jersey

There are reasons to doubt the veracity of Gov. Chris Christie's bridge scandal story.

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I doubt the veracity of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christies' bumper-to-bumper mea culpa. A trove of circumstantial evidence indicates that he had at least some knowledge that his deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, and former Port Authority officer David Wildstein colluded to wreak traffic havoc on Fort Lee, N.J.

It wasn't like the week of Sept. 9, 2013 saw a typical commute on the George Washington Bridge. Drivers spent more than two hours stuck in traffic, and news of it was all over the New Jersey press. Thousands of people, including Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich and New York State Port Authority officials, were screaming bloody murder up and down the Palisades Parkway. It's amazing that the entire New Jersey phone grid didn't collapse from the tidal wave of calls flooding Christie's office.

Even if the governor didn't take one of these calls, he was in the midst of campaign season. His campaign team would've told him about the problem and how to respond to reporters should the traffic jam come up on the campaign trail. They wouldn't have wanted to put him in a position where he might cede his advantage to his democratic challenger Barbara Buono.

[Check out 2013: The Year in Cartoons]

Most telling was that on Sept. 13th, Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye, an appointee of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, ordered the lanes open, a decision made by a senior New York state official affecting the New Jersey side of the bridge. Cuomo's office would have had to have spoken with Christie's office before the order went out. Resolving that traffic jam depended on a lot of moving parts that needed to be coordinated on a state and Port Authority level.

In a perfect world, Christie would resign, showing deference to the people of New Jersey, not spend 107 minutes spouting flimflam meant to keep his presidential aspirations afloat. But this isn't a perfect world - it's a world where politicians can cough up a well-crafted, poll-tested apology to avoid punishment for their bad behavior.

In keeping with the standard trajectory of most political scandals, many commentators are now blaming Democrats for the scrutiny Christie is under. My colleague Peter Roff posted a bait-and-switch piece arguing that governor's apology was a proper way to school President Obama on how to handle Benghazi, Fast and Furious and his dog Bo's pooping on the White House rug.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

Although it's easy to blame every problem on Obamacare, none of what Roff argues has anything to do with anything. The Christie administration engineered a major traffic jam to get back at a politician whose endorsement or lack thereof would have made no difference to the inevitable outcome of the election. Christie's apology doesn't make him the George Washington Bridge Memorial Professor of Presidential Leadership.

The most disappointing part about this whole affair is that another talented politician with the potential to become president has collapsed under the weight of his own self-destructive behavior. Perhaps Christie will run for president next year, but the GOP would be better off if he didn't.  There are plenty of prominent Republicans out there who've demonstrated enough integrity to qualify for 2016. Perhaps they'll throw their hats into the race soon, of course, provided that they're not stuck in traffic on announcement day.

  • Read Pat Garofalo: Indian Diplomat Devyani Khobragade Is Just a Part of the Wage Theft Epidemic
  • Read Susan Milligan: Chris Christie's Self-Centered Bridge Scandal Press Conference
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