New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the media proclaimed frontrunner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, finds himself at a potential political dead end as a result of a scandal involving a deliberately ordered traffic jam. His current predicament flows from mysterious lane closures to the George Washington Bridge which connects upper Manhattan to Fort Lee, NJ. The George Washington is the most heavily trafficked bridge in the world. The lane closures created monumental traffic, effectively shutting down Fort Lee and spilling into several neighboring communities.
Chris Christie apologized for the retributive acts of his office, but claimed ignorance and placed the blame squarely on senior aides
Many Christie observers immediately suspected the lane closures constituted some form of payback, while others cited the incredibly petty nature of the act as a reason to doubt Christie's involvement. It was theorized that the lane closures and resulting traffic jam were meant to send a message to Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich who had rebuffed Christie's invitation to cross party lines and support his bid for re-election.
Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich was referred to as an "idiot" by Christie senior staffers
Still, there were reasons to doubt the assertions of deliberate intervention. Christie was leading in the polls by as much as 70% and was in no threat of being denied a second term as governor. The idea that he would purposefully subject part of his constituency to unprecedented traffic delays simply because a democratic mayor refused his invitation for support seemed implausible to many.
Christie had initially vehemently denied charges that he or anyone in his administration had acted to punish Fort Lee. He even mocked the idea at a press conference. When asked if he had anything to do with the lane closures, in true Christie style he sarcastically and misleadingly replied, "I was in overalls and a hat. I moved the cones, actually unbeknownst to everybody."
On January 8, the bridge story moved into high gear as heavily redacted emails were released pursuant to a subpoena that revealed purposeful political payback on the part of high ranking Christie senior staffers. Christie's deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, sent an e-mail to top Port Authority official and childhood Christie friend David Wildstein that said, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."
Wildstein's response to Kelly's e-mail was "Got it."
Was Christie senior staffer Bridget Anne Kelly a rogue employee, or part of a deliberate retributive effort?
Subsequent emails between Christie acolytes expressed a perverse sense of demented glee upon learning that children in Fort Lee were unable to attend their opening day of school on time.
Sokolich pleaded for help in ending the traffic. "The bigger problem is getting kids to school. Help please. It's maddening." A texter whose identity was redacted added his own commentary in a subsequent message to Wildstein, "Is it wrong that I am smiling?"
"No," Wildstein replied. "I feel badly about the kids, I guess," the texter wrote, referring to the fact that the traffic jams came on the first day of classes, causing transportation to schools to grind to a virtual halt.
Wildstein's response was "They are the children of Buono voters." Barbara Buono was the Democratic gubernatorial candidate who ran against Christie last year.