If locally we learned the revelatory power of an open mike, on a national scale we became aware of the potential for seismic reverberations posed by closed traffic lanes. In a few short weeks, Gov. Chris Christie has gone from potential heir to the Republican throne to being booed at a pre-Super Bowl ceremony in Manhattan. He has gone from windy admonitions directed at President Obama to "turn the light switch on" to a defense litany that would suggest that Mr. Christie has been stumbling around in the dark for quite a long time.
In the unkindest cut of all, New Jersey's favorite son and the governor's own personal idol, Bruce Springsteen, did a song parody of the now infamous Bridgegate scandal on "Saturday Night Live." Ouch. The notoriously touchy Christie professed to be amused by Springsteen's performance. If you believe that, you probably buy his pose as Snow White, innocently biting into an apple dipped in the poison of rabid partisanship that was extended to him by his wicked aides.
The only aspect of the entire incident that suggests any innocence on Christie's part is its sheer staggering stupidity. And the only aspect of the closing of two access lanes from Fort Lee to the George Washington Bridge that anyone should be thankful for is the fact that no major emergencies occurred while political hacks played with people's lives to further their imposing boss's political ambitions and, not incidentally, heighten their own prospects for a bright future.
Mr. Christie, who is as famous for his tendency toward micromanaging as he is for his in-your-face confrontational style, chose the people he wanted advising him and serving in his administration. Christie personally appointed David Wildstein to a cushy post with the Port Authority. The friendship between the two men extended back to their high school years in Livingston. Wildstein's status as former classmate and devout Republican ally seemed to be the dominant factor in the governor's decision to install him in the $150,000 a year job. Nothing unusual there.
The good friends scenario has been adjusted somewhat since the bridge fiasco. Mr. Christie has asserted, in that grandly dismissive manner he assumes whenever he is challenged, that he was vaguely aware of Mr. Wildstein, who was a year ahead of him at Livingston High. The governor, whose high opinion of himself has remained as unwavering as Gibraltar, said that "they moved in different circles," a euphemism familiar to anyone who has followed the social tribulations experienced by many of the characters on "Glee."
"I was class president and an athlete," Christie modestly recalled. He didn't state what Mr. Wildstein was back then, but the clear implication was that it wasn't anything nearly so impressive.
I am not sure that Mr. Christie's claim that he was completely "blindsided" is not every bit as damning, as far as leadership potential is concerned, than if he personally approved the scheme to exact retribution upon Fort Lee's mayor. Mark Sokolich declined to publicly support Christie's reelection and thus put the governor's façade as a man of universal appeal in some minor jeopardy.
Mr. WIldstein was recruited to exact revenge. But a negative aspect of enlisting the help of a man who is capable of jeopardizing thousands of lives in order to score some cheap political points is that they probably will exhibit no true allegiances to anything beyond saving their own hides when things turn ugly.
Christie's defense is that he knew nothing about the closures of the two traffic lanes until long after the incident. A wily an old political animal like Rudy Giuliani immediately recognized the perilous course that Christie has chosen. The question of whether or not he actively plotted to create a monstrous traffic jam onto the GWB has been rendered secondary to speculation as to exactly when the governor knew about it. Giuliani was a staunch Christie defender initially, but he has now injected some decidedly hedgy-sounding language into his analysis of the scandal.
Wildstein claims now - right on schedule - that Mr. Christie was aware of the situation much earlier than the governor is claiming he did (the word "lied" has frequently been hurled) and that he has proof of it. Christie's office is claiming that Wildstein is only trying to minimize his own responsibility, a ploy that uncomfortably mirrors the governor's, especially considering the fact the bridge outrage fits very neatly into a concerted pattern of retribution exacted upon anyone in New Jersey careless enough to suggest that Chris Christie wasn't eventually going to supplant Springsteen in the hearts of residents of the Garden State.
Alden Graves is a Banner columnist.