A couple of branches just got whittled off of Chris Christie's pose as presidential timber and his cronies are going to have a devil of a time reattaching them.
It hardly seems appropriate, but the adjective that best suits the bombastic governor from New Jersey at the moment seems to be "small." A slew of emails by some of his top aides revealed a concerted, incredibly petty, and potentially very dangerous scheme hatched solely to exact retribution on Fort Lee's mayor, Mark Sokolich, who refused to endorse the governor's reelection in 2013. Christie's administrative brain trust decided to close down a couple of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge for four days, snarling rush hour traffic from New Jersey into Manhattan. Honest, that's what they did.
On Aug. 13, Christie's deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, sent an email to David Waldstein, a top official at the Port Authority, which is charged with controlling and maintaining the GWB, a major artery in and out of Manhattan and the most heavily trafficked bridge in the world. Mr. Waldstein's crucial qualification for the cushy job was the fact that he went to high school with Christie, but such is the nature of politics. Evidently the governor, who seems to know everything about everything else, didn't pick up on his good buddy's seriously sociopathic character flaws.
"Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," Ms. Kelly wrote and Mr. Waldstein was all too happy to oblige. The word "gleeful" even comes to mind.
Aside from the fact that it is absolutely mind-boggling that these two cretins would plot this lunatic scheme in emails and texts, consider the potential impact of Kelly's eight little words on people who have to function within the perimeters of a real 9 to 5 world. Because Chris Christie is piqued over a perceived slight by someone with better intuition than 60 percent of the voters in New Jersey, thousands of commuters have to be stalled in traffic for hours every day. The response time of fire, rescue, and police vehicles are seriously hampered. Busses loaded with kids are unable to deliver them to schools on time.
A 91-year old woman died en route to an area hospital. When someone expressed concern over children unable to get to school for the start of classes, Waldstein dismissed the kids as "Democratic spawn."
No one seemed to know exactly why two access lanes from Fort Lee to the bridge were shut down in September. The official reason had to do with maintenance work, but exactly what was being maintained remained in the realm of hazy. When the faint aroma of political payback first wafted into the room, Christie dismissed the whole thing as no big deal. It was, according to the governor, patently ridiculous to consider that any sane person would instigate that kind of mass chaos because of a political slight. Most sane people agreed with him. It was just too ridiculous.
The lane-closing issue, however, just wouldn't go away. So the notoriously touchy governor, who is faster with a catchy, headline-grabbing quip than Wyatt Earp was with a six-shooter, shifted into his condescending sarcasm mode, laced with that acerbic wit that New Jersey voters find so endearing. "Yeah, I was the one out there putting up the cones," he joked to reporters. Pretty funny, huh?
But not quite so funny any more. Mr. Christie, whose name has been spoken with reverence ever since he had the political savvy not to just look down at a hurricane's devastation from the leather seat of a jet, has seen his own presidential aspirations take the same kind of beating that the Jersey coast experienced during Sandy. You know there's trouble afoot in Trenton when the big wind from the governor's office would hardly pass as a breeze.
Mr. Christie has opted for the "I didn't know nothin' bout nothin'" route onto his own bridge over troubled water. "What I've seen today for the first time is unacceptable. I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge." And if you really believe that the governor didn't know what was going on, well, I've got this other bridge I'd like to sell you over in Brooklyn.
Alden Graves is a Banner columnist.