Chris Christie‘s “Bridgegate” scandal feeds into an existing narrative about Christie. Thus, Christie might be about to learn the lesson that Willard Mitt Romney learned in 2012 after his “47 percent” remarks were caught on video — that stories which reinforce an existing narrative about a politician typically won’t go away quickly.
In the case of “Bridgegate,” the latest evidence indicates that Christie’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Bridget Anne Kelley, schemed with David Wildstein, a high school classmate of Christie’s and a Christie-appointed official and confidant at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to close off several local lanes of traffic to the George Washington Bridge — the nation’s busiest — in Fort Lee, New Jersey, apparently because the Mayor of Fort Lee, Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, did not endorse the Republican Christie in the most recent New Jersey Governor’s race. As a result, Fort Lee experienced horrendous traffic jams for several days last September, including the first day of school. During that time, emergency responders were delayed in attending to several medical situations, including one where a 91-year old woman was unconscious and later died. Additionally, the lane closures may have slowed a police search for a missing four year-old girl. Moreover, children were trapped in school buses on the bridge. In the email exchanges between Christie aides and appointees regarding these schoolchildren, one message states, “I feel badly about the kids.” However, Wildstein’s reply comes back, “[t]hey are children of Buono voters,” referring to Christie’s Democratic opponent in the election for Governor, Barbara Buono.
The problem for Chris Christie is that Bridgegate occurred in an atmosphere in which Christie already had a reputation for bullying, angry outbursts and exacting petty vendettas on political opponents. Thus, Christie’s situation could be similar to that faced by Mitt Romney in 2012, who was seen as a Mr. Moneybags with offshore bank accounts, car elevators and dressage horses, who didn’t care about regular Americans, so that when Romney’s “47 percent” video was aired, Romney’s elitist reputation was cemented.
If Chris Christie ordered or knew about the George Washington Bridge lane closures as revenge against a Democratic Mayor and is now lying about his involvement, Christie’s political career could be over. If Christie didn’t order the lane closure or even know that it was happening on his behalf, as Christie maintains, then top officials in his office were running amok, taking drastic political action and hurting the people of New Jersey, New York and elsewhere without Christie’s knowledge or control. That itself would be a terrible indictment of Christie’s management ability, a key requirement for anyone who wants to be President.
At this point, anyone who seeks the White House in 2016 needs to start his or her campaign fundraising and networking now. While the “Bridgegate” controversy might fade away, right now the 2016 Presidential election for Chris Christie could be a bridge too far.
UPDATE: Rachel Maddow of MSNBC has come up with another theory of why Governor Christie’s office punished the people of Fort Lee by deliberately creating gridlock on the George Washington Bridge. This theory seems quite plausible, given the timing of the events involved.