The Christie Affair goes galloping along. By the time this column appears in print there may be more major developments/revelations-of-information. What will not change is the use by the GOP of one of its standard responses to such events, when the involved Republicans: "Two Wrongs Make a Right." (For the Numero Uno practitioners of this tactic see O'Reilly, Bill, and Hannity, S.) And this is one of their standard responses whether the described "wrongs" are comparable or not. But first, let's review a few of the relevant facts as we know them so far (as of January 16, 2014), concerning apparently purposely caused traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge, which connects Fort Lee, New Jersey with the island of Manhattan, New York City.
The George Washington Bridge is reputedly the world's busiest (and there are some really busy bridges elsewhere). It was completed in 1931 and at that time was the world's longest suspension bridge. It ceded that title to San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge in 1936. It has never ceded the title of "One of the World's Most Beautiful Bridges." I, born in 1936, was lucky enough to have grown up within everyday sight of it. When I was first driven over it by my Dad it had six lanes and toll booths on both sides. Double-decked, it now has 14 lanes and toll booths just on the Jersey side. Last September, right around opening-of-school time, several of the toll lanes were closed, causing severe traffic jams, especially in the community that sits at the Jersey end, Fort Lee.
What? You expected me to run a caricature? Well, everybody else is doing that!
(image by ChairWomanMay) DMCA
As almost every sentient person in the United States now knows, those lane closings were ordered and implemented by one or more officials of the administration of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and appointees of his to a body known as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey , which operates the bridge and collects the tolls. The Governors of the two states share appointment powers for several of its executives and operating officers. This is one reason why things are so murky, and why a whole host of investigations of who ordered the toll gate closings and why are underway.
Of course, that Gov. Christie is a prominent Republican, and is still being "talked about" for the 2016 GOP Presidential nomination. That is a major reason why so much interest has been taken in "what really happened." Since at least one of his Deputy Chiefs of Staff and one or more of his appointees to the Port Authority Executive appear to have been directly involved in ordering the lane closures, one of the prime questions, if not THE prime question, is "what did the Gov. know and when did he know it." This becomes especially important since the Governor said, in his Famous Press Conference , in words that might have come from that equally, perhaps even more, famous, New Jersey soap opera "The Sopranos," "I di'nt kno nuttin'."
Of particular interest here is not what happened and who said what to whom. That has been covered to a fare-thee-well and will likely continue to be for quite some time. At least it will go on for as long as the New Jersey Democrats, now with the bit in their teeth against the Gov., against whom they have been so impotent for so many years, will be able to keep the pot boiling. Since in terms of what is really important in national politics and policy, to me this is a tempest in a teapot. It is the GOP response that particularly interests me. For it is their standard in cases like this. It's not "let's get to the bottom of this and make sure that nothing like it ever happens again."
Rather it's "Two Wrongs Make a Right." We heard that right away, from GOP Chairman Reince Priebus . We heard repeated (at least I did) numbers of times by Joe Scarborough , of MSNBC's "Morning Joe," who fancies himself as a "reasonable Republican," Benghazi (of course), the "IRS Scandal," and the "NSA." (At least he didn't throw in that GOP all-purpose attack vehicle, "Obamacare." You know like, "three tornados touched down in Kanas. Blame Obamacare.") It matters not that none of the above are comparable (although each is far more important in terms of national policy). Bridget Anne Kelly apparently requested the lane closings. (Oh yes, I much prefer the term "Bridgetgate" to "Bridgegate," but that's another matter.) David Wildstein, a Christie appointee at the PA (and "old high school friend" who Christie unceremoniously dumped), apparently had some role in arranging them. At first, protected by the Fifth Amendment, he weren't talkin'. But as of Jan. 17 he stated that he would, in return for immunity from prosecution . Shades of James McCord, Judge Sirica and Watergate .) And so on and so forth, but the whole episode is an entirely local matter.
Nevertheless, the GOP is using the favorite (even above Obamacare) Fox"News" hammer "Benghazi," a tragedy caused by a combination of factors, none of which directly involved the President and for which the full story will likely never be known, as a counterweight to Bridgetgate. (Of course, it also should be pointed out that there were approximately 50 deaths of foreign service officers and other US from attacks in and around US legations during the GW Bush Presidency, none of which, apparently, were the subject of any Congressional [or Fox"News"] actions.)
The "IRS Scandal" involved the Cincinnati office of the IRS which handles applications for 501-c-4 tax status from a number of political organizations. They came from both Right and the Left-wing (although the latter is a fact conveniently left out of GOP presentations on the subject) organizations claiming that status so that they could protect the identities of their donors. To qualify an organization has to be engaged in one or more "social welfare" functions, for real. It is to the benefit of the tax-payer that these evaluations be conducted properly, which is all the IRS did. And then there is the NSA, which is currently functioning in terms of overwhelming intrusiveness into the personal activities of US citizens without anything that could be called probable cause, exactly the way the GOP likes things done. But let's blame Obama for that one too (although you can bet your sweet pitootie that if Obama scales it back significantly [and he won't] you will able to hear the howls of GOP anguish all the way across the Bridge).
But in their terms, "Obama did/does it too" therefore makes what one of theirs did OK, or at least not so bad. What they want to do, and they do this every chance they can get when something comes up about some GOP politician, is get the discussion turned on away from what that person actually did and onto "well he/she did it too" and then "yes he/she did, no he/she didn't." It's one of the prime lessons of political infighting that they learned from the Zen Master of the Practice, Lee Atwater: "Always attack; never defend." Until the Democrats learn how to do it too, they are always going to come up with the short end of the stick.