You’ve probably heard of the George Washington Bridge closure story. Even though it was a small story, it was too delicious for liberals. What it looked like was that henchmen of Chris Christie caused a huge traffic jam in Fort Lee because it’s Democratic mayor endorsed Barbara Buono rather than Christie. Now it has been shown that as improbable as it sounded, this is exactly what happened.
Before I get into this, I want to state again that the Democratic Party (in New Jersey especially) acted unconscionably. When this story first broke, I think a lot of people thought, “Didn’t all the Democratic mayors endorse the Democratic candidate for governor?” And the answer is, “No. The elected Democrats of New Jersey showed exceptional disloyalty even by Democratic standards.”
I didn’t pay a lot of attention to this story. I was sorry for the people of Fort Lee, but it was not an especially important story—especially on the national level. But I did notice something interesting about the reactions. On the left, there were a lot of people who really wanted it to be true. First, Christie is a bully and this story played right into that narrative. What’s more, he had just won an election that he didn’t deserve to. The people of New Jersey should have rejected him powerfully given that he stands for pretty much everything they are against. And there was a certain sense in which it served as a good lesson to the people of New Jersey coming right after the election.
But the more common reaction, even on the left was skepticism. I heard more than one person say, “Why would he do it?” That really struck me because that is exactly what the Foreign Editor says in All the President’s Men about Watergate. The arguments were even the same: Christie (Nixon) was way ahead of Buono (McGovern). It just didn’t make sense.
I was of two minds about this. First, they were right: it didn’t make sense. Second, many other things that Christie did during the campaign didn’t make sense either. For example, why have the Senate election a couple of weeks before the general election? That wasn’t going to make Buono win. That was done just to add a couple of percentage points onto his election win. What I think it mostly means is that Christie has created effectively a kind of criminal enterprise in the State of New Jersey, just as Nixon had nationally.
Jonathan Chait wrote a good column this morning, Chris Christie 2016: A Bridge to Nowhere. He argues that whatever chance Christie had to run for president in 2016 is now gone. And Chait has long agreed with me that Christie had little real chance. My problem always was that the whole “New Jersey asshole” act that northeasterners seem to love, does not play well elsewhere. This scandal just feeds into it. It used to be that he seemed a lot like Tony Soprano (just not as nice). Now it seems he is Tony Soprano. And the fact that he didn’t have to be directly involved in this petty act of political retribution only makes the image stick more.
But the real reason that this kills Christie’s presidential dreams is that reporters are now going to go crazy looking into every scandal the man has ever been involved in. If Christie’s people were willing to go after a small town (Less than 40,000 population!) mayor for the sin of sticking by his own party, what would they all not be capable of.
The ultimate resolution to this would be that Christie would be forced to step down as governor. And then, Obama could nominate him to run the Department of Transportation. That’s a joke of course. There is no way Christie will be forced to step down. But the part about Obama putting him in charge of Transportation is exactly the kind of thing that Obama would do. Remember: Democrats aren’t loyal. After all, the Democratic president did not endorse Barbara Buono. What a great opportunity for Obama to polish his bipartisan credential even more.