The Way I See It: Bridgegate
What the Christie scandal means for the Republicans' best shot at the White House in 2016.
As a moderate Republican, I have long been a fan of Gov. Chris Christie. Given the number of right-wing conservatives that continue to make headlines on a day-to-day basis, Christie is one of the few politicians who have been able to stay popular in the headlines, taking a centrist ground on most issues while remaining steadily popular – for the most part – not only amongst his own party, but also amongst members of the Democratic caucus as well.
Recently, though, he is making headlines for a statewide scandal, flippantly termed: "bridgegate." For those of you that don't know exactly what happened, on Sept. 9, 2013 – the first day of school for millions of New Jersey children – the Port Authority shut down two of the three access lanes that connect Fort Lee, N.J. to the George Washington Bridge, claiming this was part of a "traffic study." As a result, hours-long commuter delays ensued.
It turns out that this "traffic study" probably didn't really exist and subpoenaed emails from Christie's staff and employees of the Port Authority would reveal what seemed to be political retribution against Fort Lee Democratic Mayor Mark Sokolich, who wouldn't endorse Christie's reelection bid.
Now, as much press as this "scandal" got, it barely touched the coverage of the Polar Vortex we were experiencing that week. Actually, as far as scandals go, it seems to be low on the totem pole of resulted penalties. According to a study last year by political scientist Scott Basinger, on average, corruption scandals (i.e., bribery or obstruction of justice) cost incumbents about 8 percentage points. Next, financial and sex scandals shave off 5 points. But political scandals (e.g., traffic jams on a bridge to punish a New Jersey political enemy)? They don't appear to matter at all.
Up until now Christie has been viewed as one of the GOP's best hopes for the 2016 presidential election. Some recent (albeit premature) Pew Polls have indicated that he's the only one who comes close in a hypothetical match-up with Hillary Clinton. And up until now, he's had a decent ride with the media. But the day the scandal unfolded, I watched a couple of different television news media outlets – and most of the left-leaning ones (the way I see it) pretty much make this out to be the next Watergate and just for good measure, the right-leaning ones somehow redirected this scandal to Obama every time it came up (read: this is actually true).
So, it seems that right now, this scandal is having little impact on the average voter even if the media is driving it into the ground. Christie insists he's "not a bully," and not only had no part of this, but that he had no knowledge of it either. However, time will tell if it means anything to the voter. I mean, the man literally looks exactly like The Godfather's Luca Brasi (Google it), and he's also from New Jersey, folks – which is known as the attitude capital of the world. At least according to their residents.
So, really, when it comes down to it, none of this surprises me. However, if criminal or civil charges are brought against him, it would be hard to see how he recovers.
The way I see it, at least at this point, we've seen far worse scandals than this, and while nobody should strong arm anyone for anything (especially political endorsements), this situation doesn't take Christie out of the running for me. If I'm looking for somebody in my party that can bring together Democrats and Republicans without shifting extremely left or right, he is still our best bet. And we definitely need someone moderate enough to bring our government back to center.
However, time will tell, and as more of the story unfolds, the weight I give Christie (yes, heavy pun intended) can change. Nonetheless, if you really want to keep up with this story the right way, your best viewing options are Steven Colbert, Jon Stewart, and Jimmy Fallon. And if Chris Christie needs to avoid anyone right now, he should probably steer clear of Bruce Springsteen.
Love? Hate? Agree? Disagree? I want to hear from you. Email me at rStyn@ErieReader.com, and follow me on Twitter @rStyn.