Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Friday, October 21, 2016

WASHINGTON — What is the greatest fear of conservatives when they warn against the dangers of big government? It is that a leader or the coterie around him will abuse the authority of the state arbitrarily to gather yet more power, punish opponents and, in the process, harm rank-and-file citizens whose well-being matters not a whit to those who are trying to enhance their control.

This, of course, is a quite precise description of what happened when Gov. Chris Christie’s aides ordered the closure of some access lanes to the George Washington Bridge last September. Their motivation was political payback. The result: Thousands of commuters along with emergency vehicles, schoolbuses and pretty much the entire town of Fort Lee, NJ, were thrown into gridlock.

Using public facilities for selfish ends is the very definition of corruption, which is why this scandal bothers people far outside the conservative orbit. It took months for the episode to hit the big time because so many (the New Jersey governor claims he’s one of them) had difficulty believing that government officials would act as recklessly as Christie’s gang did — and with such indifference to how their actions would affect the lives of people in northern New Jersey who were bystanders to an insider game.

Christie was finally moved to condemn the indefensible only after the smoking gun emerged in the form of emails from his staff and his appointees. Their contents reflected a vindictive urge to squelch all resistance to the governor’s political interests.

And this is the problem Christie hasn’t solved yet. At his epic news conference, he focused again and again on how loyal staff members had “lied” to him and how he felt personally victimized. What he never explained was why he did not press his staff earlier for paper trails so he could know for certain that all his vociferous denials were actually true. He didn’t deal with this flagrant foul until he had no choice. Saying he had faith in his folks is not enough. Christie still has to tell us why he did not treat the possibility of such a misuse of power with any urgency.

Even assuming that Christie’s disavowal of complicity holds up, he faces a long-term challenge in laying this story to rest. History suggests that beating back a scandal requires one or more of these assets: (1) a strong partisan or ideological base; (2) overreach by your adversaries, or (3) a charge that doesn’t fit people’s perceptions of you. Christie has trouble on all three fronts.

  • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

    So, you mean the far right wingers who abused their political power (Tom DeLay, Newt Gingrich and company) have nothing to say about a moderate who has done the same? Where are Cooch, Ryan, Cruz and Rubio on this? Where is that great afterthought – Rience Priebus – on this?

    • sigrid28

      Worthy questions, only one of which I can answer. I believe I saw Rience Priebus on “Meet the Press,” but I cannot remember what he had to say, if anything.

      • idamag

        In his cute three-year-old voice.

    • darkagesbegin

      I congratulate you for coining a new moniker for Rience, if you indeed deserve the credit. I hadn’t heard it before, and will try to inject it into any conversation I can

    • Sand_Cat

      Not sure I’m following your point, but if the “moderate” you’re talking about is Christie, I have to disagree. Christie is a moderate only in the bizarro world in which a moderate conservative like Obama is “the far left.” In a sane and reasonably balanced political system, Christie is in no way I can think of “moderate.”

  • old_blu

    This is exactly what I was thinking although I don’t think Christy closed the lanes on the bridge nor do I think he ordered them to be closed however he should be reading his local news, and questioned why.

    • sigrid28

      Like you, I’m mystified by the time line for this debacle. Why was the decision to go ahead with the lane closings decided on August 13th but scheduled for September 9th, a time that coincided with the first day of school, the Jewish high holidays, and the anniversary of 9/11–when the fear of another act of terrorism might logically be suspected by drivers stuck in traffic, especially after 9-11-2012?

      Most damning in my eyes is the fact that this went on for four days and wasn’t nipped in the bud on day one, which was bad enough considering children were on the school busses. Bus drivers do not have an attendance list for the bus on the first day of school, just as teachers will only confirm class lists later that day in class. Thereafter, whenever students are on school busses or outside the school on a field trip, for example, they are tracked carefully via head-counts, and parents must sign-off on each trip. Even if a bus had a monitor, it is unlikely that the monitor would know all of the students. So choosing the first day of school put all of the children on busses in extra jeopardy. What if the bus driver decided to stop so they could have a bathroom break or if one could student had to get off the bus to throw up? What about one student not getting off the bus to throw up, and all the other students, excited about the first day of school, threw up, too? What about parents taking their children to school themselves, while class lists were still in a state of flux? New personnel in the school cannot be counted on to know children by name the first day, so that is the time when attendance is probably the first legal responsibility of all–especially teachers. To me, it seems unconscionable that the planners of the lane closings who worked directly for the governor picked this date ON PURPOSE.

      • old_blu

        I see where he’s being investigated now for what he did with the federal monies he got for Super Storm Sandy now as well, they’re saying he was using it to campaign with, he might not be as clean as I gave him credit for.

        • sigrid28

          Like the rest of us. people of good will, you were giving him the benefit of the doubt.

      • latebloomingrandma

        I’d like to know why phone calls to the Gov’s office about the traffic jam and “study” that no one knew about, were not returned.

      • silas1898

        The first day of school is always traffic chaos. They planned this for maximum impact.

    • BDC_57

      Yeah you got that right he is captain of the ship he should know what the ship is doing.

  • old_blu

    Oh and I wanted to thank the NM for putting the new format together, the more I use it the better I think it is. Thank You.

    • sigrid28

      Thanks to the NM for making new friends with the new format but keeping the old within the comment threads.

    • idamag

      Me, too.

  • daniel bostdorf

    Dionne correctly surmises:

    “Christie was finally moved to condemn the indefensible only after the
    smoking gun emerged in the form of emails from his staff and his
    appointees. Their contents reflected a vindictive urge to squelch all
    resistance to the governor’s political interests.”

    His “Conservative problem” is onky going to get worse as the federal government is reviewing allegations of misuse of Sandy relief funds…

    NO GOPer let alone conservatives will supportChristie …

    Feds investigating Christie’s use of Sandy relief funds….


  • daniel bostdorf

    Dionne hits it right on with this:
    “Christie has one other obstacle, and this may be the most important. A
    great many conservatives never trusted him, and a tale that plays so
    perfectly into their critique of government could make things worse.
    Erick Erickson, the right-wing writer, captured this rather colorfully.
    People sometimes want a politician to be “a jerk,” Erickson wrote on Fox
    News’ website, but “they want the person to be their jerk,” not a jerk “who tries to make everyone else his whipping boy.” Liberals are the least of Chris Christie’s problems.”

    Christies latest problem today monday is that the feds are investigating allegations of Huirrican Sandy fund misuse…


    I hear sounds of rats jumping off the sinking ship…

  • rattlesnake

    Mad tiger said

    Russ Limbaugh and right wing Republican’s don’t like Christie

    Christie is the best they have ,but Powell & Snow for President?

    • daniel bostdorf

      You have good posts at politico too!

    • daniel bostdorf

      The only 5 choices the GOP has to win the presidency are John Huntsman Jr. Utah, Susan Collins, Maine, Jeb Bush, Florida(probably the nominee), Marco Rubio, Arizona not to be taken lightly, and of course, Colin Powell-

  • rattlesnake

    Christie accused of stoping traffic closing lanes ,Republicans stopping the government. I think the same Republican’s want to stop Christie

    • daniel bostdorf


  • daniel bostdorf

    Christies conservative GOP/Teaparty/Libertarians problem is not a problem because he can’t get elected President.

    Conservative GOP/Teaparty/Libertariansare the ones with the REAL problem because they have been discredited by what they have collectovely done these past 5 years to obstruct te peoples business…

    The only 5 choices the GOP has to win the presidency are John Huntsman Jr. Utah, Susan Collins, Maine, Jeb Bush, Florida(probably the nominee), Marco Rubio, Arizona not to be taken lightly, and of course, Colin Powell—but Powell insists he does not want to run…yeah right…

    Watch out for “Defending Main Street” PAC…A new super PAC seeks to bolster moderate Republicans in a number of House and Senate races where ultra-conservative groups are threatening to snap up Republican nominations.

    more here:

  • howa4x

    It is only the media that made Christie look like a moderate. This title came because prior to his arrival as governor the democratic legislative bodies had made significant progress on Pension reform and teacher tenure so Christie could easily look bipartisan buy just going along with what was already there.
    On other issues he is not moderate. His education chief was faulted for loosing the race to the top grant because of errors in the application, and was fired by Christie. As the Commish tells it NJ lost the grant because Christie didn’t want to make a deal with the teachers whom he was battling, trying to bust their union, and limited collective bargaining to 2%. Christie Turned down a 400 million grant to build a new Hudson tunnel saying the state didn’t have the matching funds though he never asked the legislature. for them. That was a few thousand jobs lost in a tough economy. He vetoed his own gun law, defunded planned parenthood, and initially didn’t take the Medicaid expansion. He never set up health care exchanges and the only blue state governor to not. He misused Sandy aid to make a shore commercial featuring his family during the election which is the subject of a new federal probe. He gave 1.7 billion in tax breaks to corporations and for that we are 44th in job creation. He tried to give a tax cut to the wealthy but was stopped. He has conservative credentials that the press glosses over.
    His embrace of Obama After the storm is what the conservatives are mad about not his record.
    Soon he will be running around the country trying to get republicans elected to governor. These investigations will make him like kryptonite and he may not be the one you want to stand next to on the podium.

  • Bitter Cold

    In some related video we find a brief summary of Obama’s lies about keeping your doctor and your insurance: