Is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie fit to be President of the United States?
That question is at the heart of a burgeoning political scandal that is threatening to derail the governor’s presidential ambitions.
Recently released emails and text messages indicate that high ranking members of the governor’s staff deliberately created traffic jams in Fort Lee, New Jersey as retribution for the town mayor’s unwillingness to endorse Christie’s re-election bid. What seemed to be an improbable story has now taken a life of its own.
In an email to David Wildstein, a high school friend of Christie and his top appointee on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Christie’s deputy chief of staff. Bridgett Anne Kelly wrote: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” “Got it,” Wildstein replied. Two weeks later Wildstein closed two of the three lanes connecting Fort Lee to the George Washington Bridge. The GWB, which connects New Jersey to New York City, is the most highly traveled bridge in the world. The resulting gridlock shut down Fort Lee for a week. Commerce ground to a virtual standstill due to the massive traffic jam. School busses could not get kids to school. Police and fire units were seriously hampered by the traffic as they attempted to respond to calls. One EMT unit was delayed in treating a 91 year old woman who collapsed from heart failure later died.
The traffic jam was originally said to be part of a traffic study. But the Port Authority usually warns motorists weeks in advance of any activity that would limit access to the bridge. No such warning was ever issued. No “traffic study” has ever been produced.
Wildstein has since resigned. As has Bill Baroni, the Port Authority’s Executive Director.
Christie originally scoffed at questions of “bullying” and “political retribution.” He jokingly said that he was “one of the guys handling the cones” and he marginalized the incident as “not a big deal.” But the governor took a different tone when emails authorizing the shutdown were found to have been sent by his closest advisors. Never one to cower under criticism, the usually combative governor cancelled his public appearances and released the following statement: “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.”
It would appear that the governor would have us believe that he only recently learned of his staff’s orchestration of the shutdown. Such a statement strains credulity. If in fact he was caught unawares that such an act was being perpetrated right under his very nose; then one must question his management and leadership skills. If he was complicit in the shutdown or if he found out after the fact and attempted to cover it up; then his candidacy for the White House is finished.
Is Chris Christie a viable candidate for the world’s most powerful office?
Or is he just another in a long list of embarrassing Republican office seekers?