New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is the epitome of the corrupt underbelly of American politics. On Sept. 9, 2013, Christie’s Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly, ordered the closure of two lanes of the busiest bridge in the world. The George Washington Bridge was purposefully closed to create a traffic disaster in Fort Lee, N.J.
According to text messages between Kelly and David Wildstein, whom Christie appointed as director of interstate capital projects for the Port Authority, the lane closures were a response to the mayor of Fort Lee’s refusal to endorse Christie in his re-election campaign.
This scandal encapsulates the bullying and pettiness that have marked Christie’s administration in New Jersey. According to a letter by Wildstein’s lawyer Alan Zegas, “Port Authority funds were held back from those who refused to support the governor.” This fits with accusations made by Dawn Zimmer, Hoboken, N.J. mayor, stating that the administration would hold back reconstruction funds if she refused a land deal with the Port Authority.
Christie fired his chief of staff and director at the Port Authority, both of whom he appointed to their six-figure salary positions. Christie has not offered any alternatives to what has now been coined as the “Bridgegate” scandal.
How can an executive of a state not have any foreknowledge when he worked closely with and appointed Kelly and Wildstein?
Wildstein was the second-highest executive at the Port Authority. Christie has attempted to distance himself from Wildstein, stating that he had “no knowledge of this – of the planning, the execution or anything about it.”
Zegas, however, suggested otherwise in a letter to Wildstein obtained by The New York Times, writing, “Evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the governor stated publicly.”
Again painting himself as a victim, Christie said that he and Wildstein were “not acquaintances in high school.” Christie clearly does not understand that this information is irrelevant as long as he does not divulge the reasons for two lane closures, which put emergency response workers in standby.
The bottom line is that the lane closures impeded emergency response workers and commuters from going about their business all because of petty politics. The people of New Jersey and America deserve information, especially if Christie plans on making a run for the White House in 2016. Projections of whether he has the potential to succeed are contingent on his response to this scandal. Resorting to character assassination of his own appointees will not reflect well on his ability to lead the country.
Christie refuses to speak to Kelly and Wildstein to uncover the reasoning behind the closing of two lanes of the bridge. Wildstein’s willingness to testify and Christie’s aggressiveness solidifies his image as a bully. Questioning Wildstein’s behavior is necessary and should be investigated, though ignoring the fact that Christie is lying about his foreknowledge is itself deceptive. Either that or he is simply ignorant and possibly unqualified as a potential presidential candidate.