Monday, January 13, 2014

Chris Christie: Steady as He Goes, While the Wolves Gather

NBC News reports that poll numbers for NJ governor, Chris Christie are remaining what they call, "steady." The service says a Pew Research Center poll shows 60% of those asked haven't been influenced one way or another by the George Washington Bridge scandal, which caused the big man to jettison a couple of members of his staff. The poll goes on to say 6% have a more favorable view of him since the story hit the air, while 16% view him less favorably. In addition NBC cites a Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll which says Christie's job approval rating in New Jersey remains at a solid 59% while 52% indicate they believe him when he claimed he knew nothing about his staff's involvement in the partial highway shutdown that caused a series of massive traffic jams in Ft. Lee.

The governor might want to enjoy those results while he can. A very large pack of ravenous wolves is starting to close in on the camp fire and they appear to be preparing for a feeding frenzy. Things could get extremely ugly before it is over.

First, democratic NJ Assemblyman, John Wisniewski, who is chairing a committee looking into the whole affair, made an announcement earlier today. Wisniewski contends that back in July of last year, Christie's aides were seeking the endorsement of Jersey City Mayor and democrat Steve Fulop. In fact they felt so sure they'd get it, up to six members of the governor's cabinet and, or appointees were scheduled to meet with him on July 23rd. The discussions were to be about how the state could assist in Jersey City's immediate future. Before the date arrived the Christie staff found out Fulop would not be endorsing their man. On July 18th, within a single hour, four of the meetings were canceled due to, "scheduling conflicts. Mike Baroni, the deputy executive director of the NJ Port Authority who quit in December because of all the nonsense, cancelled his meeting with the mayor on the 19th and the head of Jersey's Economic Development Authority cancelled a little later. No one rescheduled.

Oops. Well, these things happen sometimes. I'm sure it was all just an odd set of coincidences. Or not. A couple of emails released last week showed an electronic exchange between Christie Deputy Chief of Staff, Bridget Kelly and Christie Port Authority appointee, David Wildstein. The messages were sent after Ft. Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich desperately tried to get Baroni on the phone during the traffic crisis

Kelly to Wildstein: Did he (Baroni) call him (Sokolich) back?
Wildstein to Kelly: Radio silence. His name comes up right after Mayor Fulop.

So much for the Rachel Maddow theory that the Ft. Lee mugging had more to do with a couple of Christie's judicial appointments rather than political endorsements. It looks like Steve Fulop and Jersey City, along with Mark Sokolich and Ft. Lee made a hit list Dick Nixon would have been proud of.

So far, no one has linked Christie directly to all the skulduggery. However hearings are going to continue and NJ democrats seem more than ready for some political payback of their own. Wisniewski even threw out the word impeachment when describing his committee's powers, although absolutely no one is ready to--wait for it--cross that bridge now.

Of course the whole Ft Lee/Jersey City ugliness might end up being the least of the governor's problems. Congressman Frank Pallone, D-NJ announced the department of Housing and Urban Development is beginning to audit of a chunk of federal Hurricane Sandy relief funds which the state used to mount a TV tourism campaign rather than, say, rebuild something.

Obviously everyone understands you have to spend money to drag tourists back to the shore, but last year the state had a choice between two separate ad campaigns geared to do just that. One cost $2 million and a second carried a tab of $4.7 million. Guess which one the aforementioned Economic Development Authority, which awarded the contract, went with?  You bet--and why, you may ask, did they spend that extra $2 plus million? That is a little fuzzy at the moment. What we do know is the more expensive campaign ended up prominently featuring none other than Chris Christie and his lovely wife, Mary Pat. All of which is okay, except the ads aired in a  year during which Christie was running for re-election.

Yessiree, who needs super pacs when you have the feds financing your media campaign? Hey, there is no time like free TV time, unless it is doing hard time afterward.

Those nifty poll numbers might start to shrink if dominoes begin to fall. Once you've opened the door even a little, God only knows who will come charging through it demanding to look at, not only the books, but for skeletons buried in shallow graves.

The other republican presidential hopefuls have yet to latch onto all this, at least publicly. It is doubtful they will at this time. The situation is fluid and the Ron Reagan code of GOP omerta probably applies at this point. Indeed, the grueling run for the white house is still down the road. If all this goes away they can hammer him on it later. If it doesn't, the governor will be a duck so dead and buried, no one will have to worry about him.

In the end we can't expect the fat lady to sing until the fat man is finished dancing. And right now it looks like he has just begun his performance. As they say, the band plays on. Settle into your seats, this musical is going to last for months.

sic vita est



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