Traffic jams are a hassle no matter what the cause. But when a traffic jam is deliberately staged for political gain, far bigger issues arise.
Recently surfaced emails among New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s staff indicate that the Sept. 9 lane closures on the George Washington Bridge suggest foul play. There is now suspicion that the traffic may have been created to retaliate against Fort Lee mayor Mark Sokolich, who did not endorse Christie in his re-election bid in November. Last week, the federal government issued 20 subpoenas to individuals and organizations implicated in the scandal – requiring them to submit relevant documents by Wednesday or face severe legal penalties.
Christie claims he is a centrist Republican who can work across the aisle to produce compromise. But having subordinates run wild, orchestrating politically motivated revenge against members of another political party, should shed doubt on this promise.
This story first made headlines when incriminating emails surfaced in early January. Christie’s aide, Bridget Anne Kelly, emailed bridge manager David Wildstein to order the closures. Christie had hired Kelly in 2010 and was promoted to a prominent administration position in 2013.
A good friend of Christie, Wildstein received his job through Christie’s patronage. Kelly’s email stated, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Wildstein’s reply was, “Got it.”
Christie has expressed deep regret and shock over the bridge closures. However, his apology seems out of place. In a December press conference before the scandal broke, Christie sarcastically stated, “I worked the cones, actually. Unbeknownst to everybody, I was actually the guy out there.”
This statement suggests little sympathy or care for the problems created by the bridge closure. Christie has now retracted that statement, claiming he didn’t know that his administration had actually ordered the closures.
This incident seems part of a larger trend of bullying practiced by the Christie administration. After sacking his aide Kelly, Christie said in a press conference, “I am not a bully” – a statement that should fall on deaf ears.
If Christie hopes to move beyond his post in New Jersey and run for president, he will need to present a respectable image to the majority of Americans.
Many students will be voting in the election come 2016. When selecting a new leader for the country, it is imperative that this choice be made in the context of a candidate’s prior decisions. A governor who engages in minor political squabbles cannot make a good case to the American people about his ability to lead the nation.
David Silverman is a freshman majoring in economics.