I greet you on this The Ides of March 2014, memorializing the day 2,057 years ago when the top one percent of Roman politicians imposed terminal term limits upon Julius Caesar. On this day each year I award some deserving political hack the PUNishment of the odious “Knife-in-the-Back” plaque for his or her ineptitude and arrogance during the preceding 12 months. Recent winners have included New York Democratic Governor Elliot (Ho-No!) Spritzer, Illinois Democratic Governor Rod (The Sleaze) Blagoevich, the Big Giant Republican Head from Dunwoody, Georgia, Newton Leroy “Newt” Gingrich, and the bumbling cat herder from Ohio, the Republican Tan-Man Crier of the House, John Andrew Boehner.
Since Richard Nixon (Republican winner emeritus, 1973-74) it has been axiomatic that any politician who must assure voters that “I am not a crook”, is, and any forced to insist “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”, in fact, did. This year's winner s sought to reassure his state's voters, “I am not a bully”. Our political putz of 2014 is that arrogant bully builder of a political bridge to nowhere, the Jersey lane hog, the donut-tello from Soprano country, the EZ Pass troll, the narcissist from Newark, the Luca Brasi of the weigh station, fifty-one year old Governor Christopher James "Chris" Christie.
“Has there ever been a political reversal of fortune as rapid and as absolute as the one just experienced by Chris Christie?...One minute, he was releasing jokey vanity videos starring Alec Baldwin and assorted celebrity pals; the next, he was being ridiculed by his lifelong idol, Bruce Springsteen...a liar, a bully, a buffoon....”
Alec MaCgillis - 12 February, 2014 “The New Republic”
“In the day we sweat it out on the streets, stuck in traffic on the GWB
They shut down the tollbooths of glory 'cause we didn't endorse Christie
The Irish/Italian Chistie first won the governorship by less than four percentage points, but within weeks of his January 2010 inauguration he assumed the mantle of a mandate, overseeing the unprecedented quashing of a 43 count criminal indictment of two prominent supporters. The three prosecutors who had obtained the indictments were permanently parked. Governor Christie had taken the off ramp to partisan-ville, and there was now something rotund and rotten in the state of Jersey.
"Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”
Shortly thereafter, Christie began a four year long argument with the senate that left the state supreme court short one justice Then, on 12 August 2013, Christie announced he had such truss issues he was withdrawing the re-nomination of a conservative justice because he did not want to expose her “to the animals.” At 7:35 the next morning, Christie's deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly emailed David Wildstein, a Christie appointee at the Port Authority for New York and New Jersey. The email read “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Wildstein's email reply simply said, “Got it”.
“Sure he’s a bully. But he’s OUR bully. Yes, his manner and demeanor can be brash, strident, even gloating. But those very traits are also what many of us have come to like about him.”
Fran Wood, columnist Star Ledger, 6 January 2013
The Newark Star Ledger called Christie's half of the Port Authority a “patronage mill”, because he had appointed more supporters than the previous four New Jersey governors combined. Two of those new hires were Chairman David Samson and David Wildstein. According to the Bergen Record, Wildstein's real job was to be Christie's “eyes and ears”, imposing “strict adherence to the Christie agenda”. And as Elizabeth Kolbert noted in the New Yorker, “By September 2013...top-level Christie appointees were barely speaking to their colleagues from across the Hudson.”
“On many occasions I heard (Wildstein) say (he had) only one constituent: Chris Christie, said a former official.”
Steve Strunsky, The Star-Ledger, 5 February 2014
Email Chains, Lanes and Automobiles: The GWB is a one mile long double decked, 14-lane suspension bridge that collects $1 million a day in tolls from 150, 000 vehicles crossing between New Jersey and 177/178 streets in Manhattan. More than 10,000 vehicles an hour use the four toll lanes at Fort Lee alone during the morning rush. On Friday 6 September Wildstein ordered Robert Durando, director of the GWB, to close three of those lanes beginning Monday morning. He also ordered the action remain secret from Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye, who had been appointed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Wildstein did update Bridget Kelly in an email that Saturday: “I will call you Monday AM to let you know how Fort Lee goes.”
“I have always said about Governor Chris Christie; if there is one thing he’s good at it is clogging major arteries...There are skeletons in his closet. Of cows.”
Bill Maher Real Time
The cones went up before five Monday morning, 9 September, and almost immediately all of Fort Lee was suffering from carpool funnel syndrome, with 600 vehicle traffic jams on every street. At 8:32 am a 911 call to Fort Lee EMS reported a 91 year old widow, Florence Genova, was in cardiac arrest in her home on Harvard Place. The coordinator of EMS services complained, “Paramedics were delayed due to heavy traffic...and had to meet the ambulance en-route to the hospital instead of on the scene”. Later that day Florence died at Englewood Hospital. Fort Lee mayor Mark Sokolich began to complain before 9:30 am., and added late in the day that Authority police were “advising commuters... (this) is the result of a decision that I, as the Mayor, recently made.” It was a lie.
“Cunnilingus and psychiatry brought us to this”
Word finally filtered up to Executive Director Patrick Foye who, at 7:44 am on Friday, 13 September, ordered the lanes reopened. Foye warned, “"I will get to the bottom of this abusive decision which violates everything this agency stands for...” Foye need not have worried because of the forty three thousand commuters and 35,000 residents of Fort Lee being punished over those four days, were a couple of editors for the Wall Street Journal, who sent reporters to find out why they had been inconvenienced.
“Mr. Christie, a Republican, complained in a private phone call to (NY Governor) Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, that Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was pressing too hard to get to the bottom of why the number of toll lanes onto the bridge from Fort Lee, N.J. was cut from four to one in early September.”
Wall Street Journal, 12 December 2013
In May of 1972 a Gallup Poll found President Richard Nixon led his probable Democratic opponent by twenty percentage points. The following month, five men working for the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP) were caught inside the Democratic Party National Headquarters. Forty years later, the only remaining unanswered question about Watergate is why, given Nixon's comfortable lead, the risky “plumbers op” was even considered
“Christie did not have sexual relations with that bridge.”
Ann Coulter - tweet
In the monthly Quinpac polls during his 2013 re-election campaign, Christie's popularity never fell below 57% Two months before the October election, on September 9, 2013, traffic cones blocking two of the three access lanes to the George Washington Bridge went up in Fort Lee. The following month, Christie won re-election as Governor by twenty-two percentage points. Seven months later, post his bridge over troubled waters, and with a Rutgers-Eagleton poll showing his popularity down 19 points to just 46%, the central unanswered question is why such an arrogant frat boy prank was even considered.
“I didn’t even know Fort Lee got three dedicated lanes until all this stuff happened, and I think we should review that entire policy ’cause I don’t really know why Fort Lee needs three dedicated lanes, to tell you the truth.”
Governor Christie. Press Conference in Trenton, N.J., 2 December, 2013.
“We do not have to give each other assurances as if we were lawyers.”Emilio Barzini The Godfather
“It is possible that he knew nothing, nothing, nothing. But it does seem a little bit like a coach claiming he never could keep all those players’ numbers straight. And Christie’s political quarterback...turns out to have formerly worked on Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign. What kind of resume is that? And the lawyer Christie hired to represent him during the ongoing bridge investigation used to be Giuliani’s mayoral chief of staff. And now that we think of it, the congressman who threatened to throw the reporter over the balcony was a Giuliani favorite. Can we work out a conspiracy theory in which everything terrible that’s happened in New York or New Jersey politics is Rudy Giuliani’s fault?
Let the games begin.”Gail Collins New York Times 31 January 2013
"If you ask me, Christie is almost dead but too stubborn to lie down."
Rick Wilson, Republican strategist 7 February, 2014 "Politico"
"Chris Christie has been the front runner—but even before the traffic scandal, he was not far out front. And his response to the scandal is highlighting his most troubling trait, which is not bullying but impulsiveness.
Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor National Review 7 February, 2014 "Politico":
"If this charge proves true, then the governor must resign or be impeached. Because that would leave him so drained of credibility that he could not possibly govern effectively. He would owe it to the people of New Jersey to stop the bleeding and quit. And if he should refuse, then the Legislature should open impeachment hearings...By the governor's own standard, lying is a firing offense."
Newark Star-Ledger Editorial 31 January, 2014
"The problem with Christie isn’t merely that he is a bully. It’s that his political career is built on a rotten foundation... He wasn’t out to line his own pockets, or build a business empire. He wasn’t even seeking to advance a partisan agenda..Christie used a corrupt system to expand his own power and burnish his own image, and he did it so artfully that he nearly came within striking distance of the White House...It was one of the most effective optical illusions in American politics—until it wasn’t."
Alec MacGillis 12 February, 2014 "The New Republic".
Only time will tell what the Federal Attorney for New Jersey will do with whatever information he uncovers, or how far the Democratic legislature will push their investigation. But as in most scandals, it is the cover up that seems to be falling apart first. We may never have proof that Christie ordered, or even pre-approved the closing of the bridge lanes in Fort Lee. But it is already abundantly clear it was an arrogant, stupid, vulgar and unnecessary act . And that story line fits the new image of Chris Christie. Christie is a bully and a thug. He built that image, he nurtured it himself, and perfected it himself. And he has no one to blame for it, but himself. He has exploded his own political career, plunging the knife into his own back. So bully for you, Governor Christie, would be Republican Presidential candidate in 2016, and deserving winner of the Ides of March Knife in the Back Plaque for 2014 - "Veni, Vidi, Verecundia", baby.
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