16 January 2014

Bridge-gate Ballyhoo

Bridge-gate burst into the public eye last week as emails from high level staffer of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) were exposed indicating that four days worth of lane closures which snarled the George Washington Bridge were intentional.  Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly sent a snarky text message intimating:  "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee". It has been speculated that the four days of lane closures which snarled the world's busiest suspension bridge was intended as a as punishment to Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich (D-Fort Lee), a Democrat who did not make a cross party endorsement of Christie in is wildly successful 2013 re-election effort.  

For his part, Governor Christie conducted a grueling 102 minute press conference in which he insisted that he did not know about the intentional nature of the traffic jam.  Moreover he fired Kelly along with his longtime friend and political aide Bill Stepien because of their involvement. 

Despite Christie's unequivocal denial of prior knowledge and his swift action at disciplining wrongdoers, the Bridge-gate ballyhoo dominated the headlines for over a week, and inspired comedians to do funny satires such as Jimmy Fallons filique with Bruce Springsteen of  the unoffical New Jersey anthem "Born to Run".

While there is no doubt that the story was newsworthy, as credible accusations of the use of public office for personal revenge is a serious charge, it seems like Bridge-gate is overblown as well as overwrought.

Firstly, consider the coverage.   As Newsbusters reported, in less than 24 hours, the big three broadcast networks devoted 34 minutes 28 seconds to "Bridge-gate".  This is 17 times more coverage than the Lamestream Media broadcast about the Obama Administration's alleged use of the IRS targeting Tea Party groups for excessive scrutiny over eight months.   The coverage may also have been intensified because of its proximity to New York.  Journalists often become much more  interested when it is affecting their home turf rather than in  "flyover" country.

Secondly, consider the target.  Governor Christie has been generally considered an early front-running for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination.   Pre-Bridge-gate polls showed Christie leading presumed Democrat front-runner former First Lady/Senator (D-NY)/ and Obama Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.  A week after the Bridge-gate scandal broke, Chuck Todd gleefully reported on MSNBC that while polling indicated that Gov. Christie was just as popular in his home state  as ever, Christie was trailing Ms. Clinton by 17 points in a head to head match-up. The Bridge-gate ballyhoo certainly seems like agenda journalism to tarnish a charismatic "enemy" front-runner of the liberal press.

Thirdly, consider the timing.  While there had been some questions about the George Washington Bridge traffic jam for months, it is worth noting when Bridge-gate really broke.  The national media had been agog at excerpts from former Obama Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' memoirs which sensationally recounted that President Obama and then Secretary of State Clinton admitted in front of Gates that they both opposed the troop surge for the War in Afghanistan in 2007 for political reasons.  This made Ms. Clinton look bad as a calculating politician without principle who was willing to risk American security for personal political gain.  Then came Bridge-gate and nary a word about Ms. Clinton's conniving was mentioned.

A related issue to the convenient timing of Bridge-gate knocking Clinton's calculating campaign stance against the Afghanistan troop surge is how the e-mails came to light.  Although the The Record of Bergen County is in New Jersey, it is highly unlikely that a regional newspaper has an extensive investigative team to dig up this treasure trove text.  As a political junkie, it sounds more like opposition research resulting in a "dirty trick", but that's just speculation

Bridge-gate also seems overwrought.  It took nearly a year for the Department of Justice to investigate the IRS Tea Party targeting, only to have an Obama campaign contributor named who quickly determined that no crimes had been committed.  What about the Executive Branch investigations of "the Fast and Furious" government sanctioned gun-running to Mexico?  How has the Obama Administration been doing in investigating the bungle in Benghazi where four Americans, including the US Ambassador, were killed in Libya on September 11th, 2012? Yet within 24 hours of the Bridge-gate breaking in the national press, Attorney General Eric Holder's Department of Justice announced that it was investigating Bridge-gate for potential violations of federal law.  

As a former chief law enforcer, Fox News host Judge Jeanine Pirro is incensed by US Attorney Paul Fishman trumpeting this Bridge-gate probe as the federal modus operandi is neither to confirm nor deny investigations so as not to appear unobjective or partisan that tarnishes a potential indictment. But when partisan politics uses law-fare under the color of pursuing justice, seemingly anything goes.

While conservatives may not have favored Governor Christie to win the GOP Presidential nomination in 2016, his chances of success may well have been diminished by the politics of personal destruction with a complicit media acting as a progressive echo chamber.  The feeding frenzy of tenuous charges and threat of lawsuits seems to mirror tactics used against former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) who resigned from office in 2010 and did not run for president in 2012, and suddenly all of those scandals vanished.

Low information voters may be lured into believing where there is smoke there is fire, even if it is blue smoke and mirrors.   Governor Christie's emphatic denials about involvement leave no wiggle room-- if he knew, then the fat lady sings ending his hopes for higher office.  But those who take time to keep informed on current events should see the trend in law-fare, smearing front-runners and the actual use of public offices for partisan pursuits.

No comments: