Incident on 178th Street

Christie: Three Possibilities (Two Require That He Resign)

Even if Christie didn't know beforehand, doesn't it seem likely he knew before yesterday?

Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Now, we’re learning something that I’ve been wondering about for days: that emergency medical services were interfered with by the lane blockages at the GWB. Linh Tat of the Bergen Record reports today that an unconscious 91-year-old woman wasn’t reached by EMS technicians for the unusually long time of seven minutes because of the heavy traffic; she died at the hospital of cardiac arrest. Is it provable that this death can be laid directly on Bridget Kelly’s plate? Maybe not. But it and the other incidents are certainly enough to spark a criminal—not legislative; criminal—investigation.

Then, someone will surely crack. With regard to the governor, there are not just two possibilities—that he either knew or didn’t know. There are three:

1. He’s telling the whole and complete truth in yesterday’s statement, that this was the first he’d known that the lane closings were political;

2. He was in on it from the start and helped mastermind it or at least winkingly approved it;

3. The middle position, which is that he didn’t have prior knowledge but he learned it was political some time ago—not long after it happened, say—and is now lying about having just learned.

If it’s two or three, I’d say you can forget not only his presidential ambitions. He’ll have to resign the governorship. Right? Hard to see any way around it. To have lied to your people for months about something like this, if that’s what he did, is a pretty good definition of being unfit for office.

And it must be said that it’s kind of difficult to imagine that the truth isn’t #3 or some version thereof. Think about it. You’re the sitting governor. It’s the first day of school. You get reports—and mustn’t he have gotten these reports?—that school children are delayed in Bergen County because of access-lane closures on the GWB. You ask a coupla questions, but ah well, you think, that’s the GWB, they’re always fixing something up there, plus it’s the Port Authority, not entirely your jurisdiction, you have to tussle with Cuomo over it, and it’s just one day.

But then day two comes. Same thing. And then day three. Don’t you start asking somebody something?

“So what’s up with that traffic at the GWB?”

“Oh, governor, it’s a traffic study.”

“Studying what?”

“Well, you know...traffic. The Port Authority is, uh...considering changing the lane-feeding pattern.”

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“And how long is this going on?”

“Hard to say. Maybe another day.”

“And no one thought to tell me in advance?”

And so on. Traffic is always bad around the GWB, but three- and four-hour snarls aren’t common. Could Christie’s incuriosity about those have been so great, for four long days, that he didn’t even ask a few questions back in early September when this was happening? This control freak of a guy?

Here’s a little useful context for you. I wrote a fair amount back in my New York days about the Port Authority, which on the whole is a great organization. But I can tell you that Jersey governors were always feeling shat upon by New York governors—that New York made decisions without Jersey knowing, etc. That historic sensitivity would be hard-wired into Christie, I would think, and it wouldn’t make any sense that any Jersey governor, especially one as bellicose as the incumbent, would sit around letting something like that happen for four days without demanding an explanation.

His story is that he got an explanation that was a lie and it’s only now he’s learned the truth. That requires just a gargantuan lack of curiosity on his part. I don’t think my #2 is true. I just can’t believe a governor, even this one, would collude to do something like this to his citizens. But it seems hard to believe that former prosecutor, who’s presumably questioned or overseen the questioning of dozens or hundreds of witnesses in his day, could ask questions of his staff, get some bullshit answer about a traffic study, and not smell a rat.

And if he did smell a rat and just stopped asking questions so he wouldn’t know, he is in essence part of the cover-up. In any case, the reputation he has built for himself—a man of no-nonsense, let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may action—would have suggested that he’d have wanted to get to the bottom of this himself long before now. That he didn’t and has been doing the usual tawdry dance that politicians do in this circumstance is another incriminating indicator.

He can fire Bridget Kelly and a few other people today, or soon, and try to take charge of this. He can demand an investigation. But the fact that he hasn’t done that already is suspicious. Remember the hurricane-era Christie? My state and my people come first, the hell with the politics. That was laudable. But his posture here has been the direct opposite. Here it’s been politics first. He’s not completely knocked out by this yet. There seems a good chance he will be knocked out by it. But even if he’s not, that old Christie is tarnished forever.