Having followed the Bridgegate scandal before it was even called that, even I was taken aback by the allegations by David Wildstein that the date of the traffic jam was to coincide with the first day of school to maximize the impact. How mean could someone get?
“Punch to the Gut”
The fact that it was political payback according to David Wildstein, felt like “a punch in the gut” to Fort Lee Mayor Sokolich and to residents of NJ. Myself included. I try every day to tell people, government can work, vote, support good candidates. But days like yesterday set us all back as we discover that things are actually worse than they appear, like some kind of Bridgegate rear view political mirror.
I felt personally betrayed. I was one of those Democrats who mistakenly believed that Chris Christie and his administration were trying to get politics and corruption out of government. After US Attorney Christie had indicted Bergen County Chairman Joe Ferriero for corruption aimed at my hometown, where my parents still pay taxes, I watched as other bloggers followed him on Facebook and I sent him a note thanking him for fighting corruption and he accepted my friend request.
That was before Bridgegate, when I actually thought he might have a good reason, even if I did not understand it yet, for killing the ARC tunnel project. I wasn’t the only progressive Dem fooled into thinking Christie may have the interests of the state at heart ahead of his own ambition. But I didn’t know him very well. I ignored the warnings that friends of mine at Blue Jersey posted nearly daily. People who knew his whole history, not just his corruption busts. I even ignored my own instincts.
When he rejected the calls to run for President the first time, to stay and be Governor of New Jersey, I really thought he cared about us. When he resisted the right wing tendency to religious bigotry, when he looked like he was extending an olive branch to Garden State Equality Founder Steven Goldstein, or denouncing anti-Muslim sentiment in his own party, and said “Thanks but No Thanks” to Sarah Palin’s offer to campaign for him, it looked as if, he might actually mean it all. But now, the illusion is all but completely shattered. Other Democrats like me are kicking ourselves that we ever believed the show for one minute. We pride ourselves on being savvy political observers. But many of us were fooled, because of the endorsements by prominent Democrats.
The very endorsements that Christie’s administration was courting to win big in a blue state. Potential endorsements like Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and Mayor Mark Sokolich.
When I first heard whisperings of the lane closures and that it may have been political, I needed a lot more convincing. When the Wall Street Journal reported that David Wildstein shut down those lanes, that woke me up. When I tried years ago to post on PolitickerNJ, I was blocked. I never got an explanation. It was very anti-Weinberg when Wildstein ran that site. At a time when I was blogging about corruption to prevent the Bosses from kicking Senator Weinberg out of Trenton. PolitickerNJ, the blog originally founded by David Wildstein, was also very pro-Christie. We now know why. Christie used the press and bloggers while he was US Attorney. He used them. And he was using us too, unwittingly.
I wasn’t just upset as a blogger. I was a Councilwoman in Tenafly just before Christie won office. My immediate successor was a former Republican who I thought would make a wonderful councilman. He was very involved in homeland security and the fire department. Salt of the earth, pillar of the community, heart of gold. I was completely shocked one day to see the “list of Mayors” that Christie’s campaign team was targeting. My successor was on that list. He was not a Mayor. The Mayor was actually an Independent. However, the newly Democratic Councilman was specifically targeted. I felt sick to my stomach. They were compiling a list of “influencers” who would be overwhelmed emotionally by the delivery of a piece of World Trade Center steel. This was exactly the kind of man who would honestly be emotionally overwhelmed by such a gesture. The fact that they would play politics with emotions of good people about such an event that was so raw still was unconscionable. Now it seemed personal.
As a former public servant, I was appalled at what had happened when two incompetent, extremely immature political patronage appointees were given carte blanche at the busiest bridge in the world. As a civil engineer I was angry that the public trust and safety had been compromised for no good reason. As someone who knows Port Authority employees who love their job and take it very seriously, I was infuriated that they were used so badly. Knowing members of the Governing body of Fort Lee and people who had gotten stuck in that jam and feeling that my own friends were the target of this vendetta, made it more personal still. As a progressive blogger, I was embarrassed I did not see this coming. When I realized what had happened, I went to go unfriend Chris Christie, but he had already abandoned that Facebook account. He got what he wanted. He won his election.
The Traffic Study “Sham”
I started to pay attention to the lane closures after they happened because I knew Sen. Loretta Weinberg’s detective instincts were usually spot on, but when the Wall Street Journal article came out, I knew there was definitely more “there” there. Before it had even been called Bridgegate, in December of 2013, a month before Bridget Kelly’s infamous email came out, I was glued to my computer streaming all 5 hours of the original testimony of Port Authority Employees, the very testimony taking place when Christie deleted the twelve texts between himself and Regina Egea, who worked in his now defunct Department of Intergovernmental Affairs. As a former Bergen County Traffic Department employee, I immediately knew that the Port Authority testimony was accurate and that David Wildstein and Bill Baroni needed to ‘fess up. Hearing Baroni’s attorney yesterday reiterate the pathetic traffic study story, made me just shake my head.
And so, hearing the details of the indictment, I was disgusted that they intentionally targeted children and completely innocent bystanders during the week of 9/11. That they were so callous toward members of the public and that they were doing it only for political reasons was too much to take. As Senator Weinberg said, it is just these kinds of “sickening” actions that make the public throw up their hands, give up and stay out of politics altogether.
Neither David Wildstein nor Bridget Kelly can take back the callous emails. Bill Baroni cannot go back in time and answer those desperate phone calls from Mayor Sokolich no matter what his attorney says. Immature actions followed by name calling is not winning them friends. They can blame each other all they want, and call each other liars, but they cannot change the past or the evidence. Chris Christie can parse his words to leave out what he knew about the coverup. He can delete damning texts so he can state emphatically that there is “no evidence”. But he cannot build back the trust he squandered by foisting such people on the citizens of New Jersey. Because that is who ultimately gets hurt. The people of New Jersey. Many of these were children – too young to even know what a Republican is, let alone a voting booth.
NJ residents now have a sinking feeling in their stomachs. If Christie appointees are capable of such behavior, what else have they been up to?
Wildstein, Baroni, and Kelly were the appointees Chris Christie chose, not because they cared about NJ, but because they swore loyalty to Chris Christie and his Presidential ambitions. Although, they may be rethinking that loyalty since Christie summarily threw two of them under the bus. I would hope people think very carefully before casting a vote in the upcoming Republican Presidential primary. We need a President, with good judgement, who cares more about this country than he does about himself. America doesn’t need the same buyer’s remorse New Jersey is feeling this morning.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.