I remember being planted in front of the TV during the summer of 1972 watching the Senate Watergate Hearings. It was my first trip to Los Angeles, and the draw of the hearings was greater than that of the beach. I remember the drama when the existence of the now famous Watergate tapes was acknowledged and all that proceeded thereafter. It was my first political scandal, and it was amazing. Unfortunately, there have been many opportunities to watch the slow drip, drip, drip of exposure as subsequent scandals played themselves out. We have become pretty familiar with the denials and the self-deprecating remarks, followed by the exposure of an undeniable fact. The pattern remains the same, even as the subject and the persons change. So it is with “Big Boy”, Chris Christie.
We are currently at the denial and self-deprecating remark stage. However, we have not yet started the investigations and the opportunity for that undeniable fact to be exposed. As with all such scandals, the individual accepting responsibility also takes on a defensive posture. It is if to say, ” If you think I really did it, prove it. But don’t expect any help from me”. This is exactly what a defense attorney would advise a client. He would remind his client that the burden of proof is on the prosecutor. While the client needs to provide any specific information that is requested, he doesn’t have to provide information not requested. That is the process of “discovery”. Being a former prosecutor and savvy politician, Christie knows exactly what to do and say. While there may be some incriminating information out there for the various investigative bodies to find, he is not going to make it easy for them to find.
There are a couple of facts that do cause me to question the Governor’s veracity at this point. First, this is a man with an ego as large as his girth. By all accounts, he demands loyalty from his closest staff, and is in control of their every move. It is therefore quite difficult to imagine that Christie was unaware of the lane closings. Second, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and accept that this was solely the actions of his Deputy Chief of Staff. How is it possible that he didn’t look into it and deal with it over a five day period , despite the fact that the news media were covering it as a major story? His claims and disclaimers strain my credulity.
Aside from the obvious inconvenience and aggravation caused by these actions on the George Washington Bridge, there are other troubling issues to raise. First, he has yet to show concern for those who were caught in this created-traffic nightmare. His lack of empathy, even for those awaiting the lifesaving services of EMS vehicles, is astounding. Second, while he demands utter loyalty from his staff, he brutally fired and defamed his Deputy Chief of Staff, blaming her for this event. Does he really think that throwing her “under the bus” will make it go away? His use of the word “I” and “me” in his press conference overshadowed all concern for others. Finally, if in fact, this event occurred without his knowledge we have to be concerned about his administrative skills and the environment of political retribution that pervades his office.
In Mr. Christie’s case, both substance and style must be carefully assessed. If this is the next best hope of the GOP for 2016, the bar is getting lower and lower, and I fear for their future as a national party. Understand, I don’t fear that they may lose their national standing, I do, however, fear what might replace them. We must be careful what we wish for.