I am not a bully.
Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey and possible candidate for the office of President of the United States.
Well that depends on who you ask. Last year during his re-election campaign Governor Christie's staff was putting together a list of democrats who were supporting him, thereby proving to voters their man could be a sort of bi-partisan messiah. His Honor, Mark Sokolich, the mayor of Ft. Lee, NJ declined to lend his name to the endeavor.
It isn't entirely clear how many people were pissed off by his decision, but one of them was certainly Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie's deputy chief of staff. She sent an email to Christie appointee David Wildstein who worked for the NJ Port Authority. They and their New York counterparts are the ones who control the operation of the George Washington bridge, which is the busiest in the world. Her terse little message said simply, "Time for some traffic problems in Ft. Lee." He emailed back, "Got it."
Shortly afterward, on September 9th, a couple of entrance lanes from Ft. Lee onto the bridge were closed for a, "traffic study." The ensuing chaos turned Ft. Lee into a parking lot for a few days. Accusations began to fly and outraged denials were issued. By December things were starting to fall apart. Wildstein resigned as did Christie's pal Bill Baroni, deputy executive director of the Port Authority.
Then, as they always do, the emails and a text or two became public. In one, Wildstein referred to Sokolich as, "this little Serbian," in another he claimed all the kids on school buses stuck in traffic were the children of Christie's gubernatorial opponent Barbara Buono. The implication being it was alright to make them late to class because of who their parents might be voting for.
Yesterday Governor Christie went with the Ken Lay defense and claimed he was completely unaware of not only his staff's involvement in the affair, but also Sokolich's refusal to back him. To prove it he fired Kelly and his campaign manager, Bill Stepien and took a trip to Ft. Lee in order to apologize to the little Serbian. In a lengthy news conference he told the press he was--not necessarily in this order--"blind sided, betrayed, heart broken, humiliated, and sad." He also called his staff, the people he hired, "stupid." Well, what are you going to do? Good help is so hard to find these days.
It is the first real hit Christie has taken since his name started being bounced around as a republican presidential candidate. Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC put it this way to NBC News, "He is kind of a bully. I just don't see how people that close to him could have felt comfortable enough to do this if they thought their boss wasn't of this mind set."
Of course, Christie's road to the nomination isn't going to be easy, bridge scandal or not. That bi-partisanship stuff he likes to brag about works with the general public, but not the tea party loons who have an inordinate amount of influence in GOP primaries. In fact many of them called him, among other things, a traitor when he thanked President Obama for federal help in the aftermath of super storm Sandy. He may be the sort of brute thug they admire, but he is too much of a wheeler dealer and isn't the true believer like Ted Cruz. For the lynch mobs of the screaming right, as the bard said, therein lies the rub.
Luckily for the governor, 2016 is two years away. As long as new and more damaging revelations don't emerge, by the time Iowa rolls around, this ugly little tale of political retribution will have all the relevancy of a Mitt Romney campaign button to the voting public.
Meanwhile, if you're in West Virginia, don't drink the water--at least not in nine counties. An outfit called Freedom Industries managed to dump the chemical, 4-methylcyclonhexane methanol into the Elk River. News reports say the good people who run the company still aren't exactly sure how much of the stuff went into the water. However, one hint might be found on the corporate web site. It claims their plant in Charleston, where the spill occurred, has the capacity to store four million gallons of chemicals. The site also promises us, Freedom can, "process large volumes of chemicals rapidly and cost effectively."
Yes, well tell that to the 300,000 or so people who now have a water supply so incredibly fouled that not even boiling it will help. At this point the only things it is good for is flushing a toilet and fighting fires. If you drink it, cook with it, or bathe in it you can, according to the reports, suffer severe burning in the throat and eyes--be hit with violent vomiting, have trouble breathing, and experience skin irritation and blistering.
Can there be any doubt battalions of lawyers are busing into the state as I type? I didn't think so.
So there we have it, another week down the drain.
The good news is it is nearly 5pm in Poughkeepsi and the bar is open. See you there.