Christ Christie, the popular New Jersey government and GOP presidential hopeful, has been embroiled in the “Bridgegate” scandal since last year. But a report released today by Chris Christie’s own lawyers has completely exonerated him of any involvement in the scandal or even any knowledge of his own staff’s activities. It seems that the tough-talking, straight-shooting governor with bi-partisan appeal is also such a hands-off boss that something as big as closing down the busiest bridge in the world just escapes his notice. Either that, or this new report is campaign propaganda meant to give Chris Christie a shot at the 2016 election.
With exclusive access to Christie and thousands of pages of interviews with the governor and others, the report could possibly shed new light on how the Bridgegate scandal happened. Instead, the report seems intent on finding anyone else responsible except Christie. Their chosen scapegoat seems to be Chris Christie’s former deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly.
Some have noted that their treatment of Kelly is less than complimentary. In their attempt to pin all responsibility on Bridget Kelly, the authors of the report find any way to discredit her, including blaming her brief relationship with the governor’s former political advisor, Bill Stepien. They claim that she was unhappy after their relationship ended and that may have played a part in her creating the bridge scandal. Rachel Maddow, who has covered the Bridgegate scandal extensively, said that their portrayal of her was called “slut shaming” in the real world, though she didn’t know what they would call it in legal circles.
Besides vilifying Kelly as a woman scorned, the 300 plus page report compiled by Christie’s lawyers not only exonerates Governor Christie of any involvement in the scandal, but includes many glowing descriptions of Christie himself. One phrase actually says that the governor’s explanation of events “rings true,” as though it is reasonable to assume that the governor of a state pays no attention to what his employees directly under him are doing. Or maybe it’s supposed to be part of a campaign to make voters see Christie as an honest man who can be trusted to run the country, which would make the report propaganda.
Included in the report is the claim that David Wildstein, the Port Authority official who was appointed by Christie and was involved in the lane closures, actually told Christie what was happening. At a 9/11 function the two were attending together, Wildstein claims that he told Christie what was happening, but the governor claims that he doesn’t remember that. In fact, Christie says that something like a traffic problem just isn’t memorable to him, including one that involves the world’s busiest bridge.
It’s hard to believe that Christie is as glowingly pure as the report would have everyone believe, but it’s equally as implausible to see how this won’t affect Christie’s possible presidential campaign. Christie has been considered a Republican front runner in the race for the GOP nomination. He has gone from being the frontrunner, to being a footnote. This year at the Conservative Political Action Conference, one of the main events for candidates to show off their style and substance, Chris Christie did not rate the top three in the straw poll. That honor went to Rand Paul, whose popularity has been growing with the GOP base while Christie’s has waned. With that in mind, this report looks more like a Christie campaign pamphlet than an objective report on the New Jersey governor’s innocence.
The release of the report precedes that of the two independent investigations being conducted by the New Jersey State Legislature and federal prosecutors. More than likely, those reports will have more substance to them than this one and a more objective viewpoint. Nevertheless, it probably won’t do anything good for Christie’s presidential hopes and it is unlikely that he will be the Republican nominee in 2016. So while this report, compiled by the governor’s own lawyers, may exonerate him from involvement in the Bridgegate scandal it probably won’t make a different in the long run. When that happens, this new report will be nothing more than propaganda in a failed campaign to make Chris Christie presidential quality.
Opinion By Lydia Webb