Democrats on the national level have been only passively engaged on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) bridge scandal over the last several weeks, but that changed quickly this morning.
The Democratic National Committee quickly released the above video, highlighting public remarks the governor has made about the controversy – remarks that now appear to be the opposite of the truth. Soon after, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz issued a statement – her first on the story – saying the revelations point to “political retribution.”
“What is crystal clear is that the Governor’s office ordered lane closures that were intended to make first responders experience delays, kids sit gridlocked on the first day of school, and commuters hit log jams, to punish the Democratic mayor who didn’t endorse Chris Christie’s reelection bid.
“These revelations are troubling for any public official, but they also indicate what we’ve come to expect from Governor Christie – when people oppose him, he exacts retribution. When people question him, he belittles and snidely jokes. And when anyone dares to look into his Administration, he bullies and attacks.
“For 121 days, Chris Christie disparaged the questioners and later lied saying no one in his office was involved. That was clearly untrue given the discovery of emails that came directly from his own top staff. Time’s up, Governor.”
This came the same morning as another DNC video, which was apparently put together before this morning’s revelations.
If angry conservative tweets are any indication this morning, the Republican defense, at least at this point, appears to be that imposing a crippling traffic on a community for a week doesn’t seem like too big a deal. This understates matters considerably.
To reiterate a piece from a month ago, it’s worth considering the larger context. First, Christie and his team have spent years carefully cultivating a reputation: the governor is “above politics” and has no use for “politics as usual.” The available evidence does enormous, perhaps permanent, damage to that reputation.
Second, though no one was seriously hurt in Fort Lee, Port Authority officials have described this as “dangerous” – when the Christie administration brought the community to a halt, emergency crews were unable to move, too. The governor’s team put innocent people at risk as part of a petty, partisan stunt, which is plainly indefensible.
And finally, once officials are known for abusing their power, it’s a tough label to shake. This is less about a few days of traffic and more about a governor accused of using a powerful public agency as some kind of weapon, punishing a town out of petty, partisan spite, while putting public safety at risk.
Jon Chait added that the story is “devastating” for Christie, in part because “it’s very easy for voters to understand: He punished a town because its mayor endorsed his rival. There are no complex financial transfers or legal maneuverings to parse. Second, it fits into a broader pattern of behavior.”