Bridgegate

02.01.14

Chris Christie's Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Oppo Dump

On Saturday afternoon, New Jersey governor Chris Christie responded to allegations that he knew more about lane closings on the George Washington Bridge that he admitted with a peculiar email.

Late Saturday afternoon, Chris Christie's office leaked a tough email dumping on the New York Times and former Christie appointee David Wildstein to Mike Allen at Politico. The email came the day after a lawyer for Wildstein, the former New York Port Authority official at the center of "Bridgegate," the closing of lanes on the George Washington Bridge for political reasons in September 2013, said that evidence exists that Christie knew of the lane closings at the time. While it's natural for Christie to want to push back against Wildstein's allegations, the strange timing and content of the email leads to questions about the political acumen of the embattled New Jersey governor.

Christie's email, entitled "5 Things You Should Know About The Bombshell That's Not A Bombshell," starts off a stock denunciation of the New York Times' reporting on the letter from Wildstein's lawyer as well as Christie reiterating his claim that he was unaware of the lane closings at the time. Then it gets weird.

The email attacks Wildstein for behavior that the middle aged politico engaged in high school and it's not terribly scandalous either. Christie's office notes that the former Port Authority official was "publicly accused by his high school social studies teacher of deceptive behavior" and "as a 16-year-old sued over a local school board election." It's also worth noting that Christie and Wildstein were high school classmates who were both involved in the school baseball team.

Christie also attacks Wildstein for having spent years as an anonymous blogger on New Jersey politics known as Wally Edge---a role he only gave up in 2010 when the Christie adminstration hired him---and for having a "tumultous" tenure as mayor of Livingston, New Jersey in the late 1980s. And the source that the email cites for all of this, an article from the Bergen Record in 2012 entitled “Ex-Blogger Is Governor Christie's Eyes, Ears Inside The Port Authority." The ex-blogger referenced in the headline is Wildstein.

Finally, Christie attacks Wildstein for being self-serving. "Bottom line - David Wildstein will do and say anything to save David Wildstein," the email says. It notes the contrast between Wildstein coming forward now and his initial reluctance to cooperate with the investigation---a reluctance that seems to have disappeared now that the Port Authority is refusing to pay Wildstein's legal bills. The former Port Authority official repeatedly invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination in January testimony before the New Jersey General Assembly.

But, as strange as it is for Christie to launch some of these attacks at Wildstein, what's even more bizarre is the timing of the response. The email was leaked to a national publication the afternoon before the Super Bowl would be held in New Jersey. This primes Christie's response, which attacks Wildstein's credibility based on behavior he engaged in high school, to drive the news on an otherwise slow Sunday. Further, because the Super Bowl is being played in Christie's home state, it provides an easy means for the story to bleed into coverage of the big game.

There are obvious reasons for Christie to want to push back against Wildstein but this email is politically maladroit that it only raises more questions about the burgeoning political scandal and the longstanding relationship between Christie and Wildstein.