HOUSTON, January 12, 2014 – Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey stole two pages directly out of President Obama’s playbook that should completely preclude him from ever holding any kind of national office.
He used the immense power of the governor’s office to inflict punishment, revenge and retribution on his political enemy – regardless of the collateral damage this decision would cause the people of New Jersey. Only when caught red-handed did he blame staffers and claim complete ignorance in the face of facts that tell a different story.
This behavior is reprehensible and should act as a warning to America about both Christie in particular and Big Government politicians in both parties in general. Progressive Republicans who believe that the power of government should not be curtailed, just used in ways that they believe to be best, pose just as great of a danger to liberty and freedom as progressive Democrats do, and, as Christie has proven, will abuse the power of government in exactly the same ways as well.
Republicans must choose candidates who will reduce the power, scope and authority of government or risk a repeat of the lawlessness, abuse and coercion of the Obama and Christie administrations.
Emails and text messages obtained this week by the New Jersey legislature revealed that Christie’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, and a few appointees of Christie’s who worked for the New Jersey Port Authority conspired to close three of the four lanes on the George Washington Bridge last September as retribution for Democrat Mayor Mark Sokolich’s decision not to endorse Christie in Christie’s November 2013 re-election bid. Mark Sokolich is the mayor of Fort Lee, NJ where the George Washington Bridge is located, and he was also running for re-election in November of last year. The emails and text messages from Christie’s aides and appointees leave no doubt that this scheme was concocted in the hopes of damaging the political career of Mayor Sokolich- in complete disregard for the care, safety and well-being of the citizens of New Jersey.
As reported by NJ.com, an Aug. 13 email that was sent two weeks before the lane closures from Christie’s deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly to David Wildstein, then director of interstate capital projects at the Port Authority stated, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” “Got it,” Wildstein replied, a minute later.
NJ.com continued, “Then, on Sept. 7, two days before the closures went into effect, they were in touch again. “I will call your (sic) Monday AM to let you know how Fort Lee goes,” wrote Wildstein to Kelly.”
Three of the four lanes were closed on September 9, and on September 10 Mayor Sokolich sent the following text message to Bill Baroni, then the Port Authority executive deputy director and Christie appointee, at 8:04 a.m: “Presently we have four very busy traffic lanes merging into only one toll booth. The bigger problem is getting kids to school. Help please. It’s maddening.”
What might be the most appalling part of this scandal happened next. Christie’s staffers and appointees gleefully mocked Mayor Sokolich’s plea for help. NJ.com reported that one minute after Mayor Sokolich’s plea for help an unnamed Christie staffer sent a text to a colleague saying, “Is it wrong that I’m smiling?” That same staffer a few minutes later said, “I feel badly about the kids.” One minute later the official added:”I guess.”
A second unnamed official that works under Christie responded: “They are the children of Buono voters,” referring to Christie’s Democratic challenger Barbara Buono.
NJ.com goes on to report that “David Wildstein also made light of the mayor’s troubles in a Sept. 18 email to Christie’s campaign manager Bill Stepien, “I had some empty boxes ready to take to work today, just in case,” wrote Wildstein, apparently referring to his own future as controversy over the closures began to rise. Then he added: “It will be a tough November for this little Serbian (Mayor Sokolich, apparently). “It’s fine,” wrote Stepien to Wildstein. “The mayor is an idiot though. When (sic) some, lose some.”
While Christie’s staffers and appointees were having a grand old time trying to inflict political revenge upon Mayor Sokolich, average ambulance response time doubled from 3-4 minutes to 7-8 minutes. In one case it took more than 7 minutes to reach a 91 year old woman who later died of cardiac arrest. In at least one instance it took a full hour to reach a man who was showing signs of cardiac arrest. If he had been having a heart attack, it is almost certain that he would have died. For those outside the ruling class, this was no laughing matter.
Christie has long claimed that the lane closures were part of a “traffic study.”
However, no one can produce any documentation proving that the ghost traffic study was ever completed. Christie still maintains the position that the lanes were closed due to the alleged traffic study.
Chris Christie is notorious for his micromanagement, and people who are familiar with his style of governing would be very skeptical of his claim that he was not knowledgeable about this situation before and during its occurrence. Regardless, it is the culture and leadership that he procured that led to this reprehensible abuse of power.
Americans have grown weary of the ruling class taking political revenge using the power of the office and then deflecting blame and claiming ignorance. “Bridgegate” is a true reflection of the culture of corruption that the nexus between power and big government ideology creates.
The next president must drastically reduce the size, scope and authority of the federal government or abuses of power and denials of responsibility like this will continue to occur. Christie, and all of the proponents of Big Government – regardless of which party they belong to – cannot be entrusted with the power that comes with holding higher office.