New documents related to a traffic jam planned by a member of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) staff show for the first time how furiously Christie’s lieutenants inside the Port Authority worked to orchestrate a coverup after traffic mayhem engulfed Fort Lee last year.
Inside the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Christie’s top appointees neglected furious complaints from Fort Lee’s police chief as well as from angry rush-hour commuters. One woman called asking why the agency was “playing God with people’s jobs.”
The Republican governor’s appointees instructed subordinates to stonewall reporters who were asking questions. They even ordered up an actual “traffic study” to chronicle the impact and examine whether closing the lanes permanently might improve traffic flow. The study’s conclusion: “TBD.”
Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye wrote an impassioned email to the general manager of the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 13, arguing that lane closures that spiraled into a major scandal this week were illegal…
“This hasty and ill-advised decision has resulted in delays to emergency vehicles. I pray that no life has been lost or trip of a hospital- or hospice-bound patient delayed,” he wrote. He added: “I believe this hasty and ill-advised decision violates Federal Law and the laws of both States.”
“To be clear,” Foye declared, “I will get to the bottom of this abusive decision which violates everything this agency stands for; I intend to learn how PA process was wrongfully subverted and the public interest damaged to say nothing of the credibility of this agency.”
In less than 24 hours, the big three networks have devoted 17 times more coverage to a traffic scandal involving Chris Christie than they’ve allowed in the last six months to Barack Obama’s Internal Revenue Service controversy. Since the story broke on Wednesday that aides to the New Jersey governor punished a local mayor’s lack of endorsement with a massive traffic jam, ABC, CBS and NBC have responded with 34 minutes and 28 seconds of coverage. Since July 1, these same networks managed a scant two minutes and eight seconds for the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups.
“When I read that quote, Joe, about ‘who cares about those kids, they voted for the other guy.’ The first thing that came to my mind was that’s exactly how Sunnis would talk about Shiites or Shiites would talk about Sunnis in Baghdad or Beirut,” Friedman told host Joe Scarborough on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Thursday.
Friedman drew a comparison to conditions that plunged Lebanon into civil war, saying the messages are “sick.”
“The Lebanese civil war started in 1975 when a school bus got shot up,” Friedman said. “And I think that’s a sign of how — sometimes you need to read a quote like that to realize how far we’ve descended, how deep the polarization has become. These aren’t fellow citizens, these aren’t fellow New Jerseyans: They are the enemy. That’s really sick.”
Do you have to believe the governor knowingly has said things that aren’t true?
I think when he has had previous press conferences, it’s hard to believe he didn’t have some knowledge … in some way. After the stuff started coming out about some phony traffic study? Come on, you knew this was bullshit. You should’ve been saying this back then.
Do you believe that the governor directly instructed that these lanes be shut down?
No. But at the very least, the least that could have happened is he created this climate about – that he has: We destroy our enemies. Alleged enemies. In other words, anybody that … [hasn’t] agreed with us 100 percent is an enemy, and has to be stamped out.
Christie says he awoke Wednesday morning, went to the gym and then got a call from an aide about a report in a New Jersey newspaper with the bombshell allegations about his aides.
He was “blindsided” and “shocked,” saying it was all new to him.
Then came this revelation:
“I haven’t had a lot of sleep the last two nights, and I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching.”
If Christie found out about the emails a day before he spoke to the media, what kept him up the first night?
There’s another question besides that. This aide of his that he fired, the woman who sent the e-mail: “Okay, time for traffic problems in Fort Lee.” The fact that that meant what it meant means that there is a culture there. If I, in my normal day, let’s say I got an e-mail: “Okay, time for traffic problems.” I wouldn’t have the slightest idea what to do with that. But somebody did. They knew exactly what that meant. That, to me, is quite telling, on both ends. The aide sends the e-mail, and the recipient of the e-mail knew what to do with it. Okay, time for traffic problems in Fort Lee.
Okay, well, what kind of stuff like that went on before that that was essentially the education? ‘Cause I doubt there was ever a meeting, “Look, there may be a day when we’ll send you an e-mail, and it’ll say ‘Time for traffic problems in Fort Lee.’ What that means is, you close down three lanes or two lanes for a month and you cause all kinds of traffic so that we can end up blaming it on the mayor there.” I doubt that meeting was ever held.
So what the e-mail means is, whoever sent it — well, the woman that sent it and the recipient knew that that means the mayor of Fort Lee is a scumbag and it’s time to get even with this scumbag, and we’re gonna pay this scumbag back by ruining traffic in his town. So there’s a culture there. Eventually somebody will get on to that.
Gridlockgate — has anyone called it that yet? — is at the top of the scandal scale. It sounds like the kind of thing Nixon’s more reckless operatives might have tried, but at least they confined their mischief to their political enemies. Christie’s political hatchet-wielders directed their mischief in a manner that disrupted the lives of thousands of ordinary citizens entirely removed from and blameless in the partisan conflicts of the state’s political class…
These scandals are more consequential to American government than abusing the placement of traffic cones for a few days, and it would be good if Republicans had a candidate in 2016 able to make the comprehensive case about the systematic corruption at the heart of government today. But it is harder for Christie to make this case now, having handed his enemies a cheap retort.
A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey finds that 54% of Likely New Jersey Voters believe it’s at least somewhat likely that Christie was aware that traffic lanes onto the George Washington Bridge were being closed as retaliation for the mayor of Fort Lee’s refusal to support the governor’s reelection…
Fifty-six percent (56%) of New Jersey voters believe Christie should resign if it is proven that he approved of retaliation against an elected official who refused to support him. Just 29% disagree, while 15% are not sure…
Thirty-nine percent (39%) of all voters in the state say they are less likely to vote for Christie to be president in 2016 because of the Fort Lee incident. Fourteen percent (14%) are more likely to vote for him. Another 39% say the incident will have no impact on their voting decision.