My prediction that Bridgegate would bring down Chris Christie was, in a word, wrong. In my follow-up column, I was equally wrong to assert that Bridgegate, and other allegations of malfeasance by the Christie administration, would prove to be more consequential than Fastandfuriousgate, IRSgate, and a lot of other mostly Forgottengates.
Bridgegate vs. Benghazigate 1/15/14
by H.B. Koplowitz
The right claims the mainstream media have paid more attention to Bridgegate than Obamacaregate, IRSgate, Fastandfuriousgate and Benghazigate. Not true.
The MSM didn’t bash the botched rollout of Obamacare? Really? Who hasn’t heard “if you want to keep your insurance” as often as “time for some traffic problems”?
Fast and Furious? The MSM has covered the ill-conceived “gunwalking” scheme initiated under George W. Bush’s administration and continued under President Barack Obama, the tragic deaths of border agents and the congressional hearings and federal investigation, which basically exonerated Attorney General Eric Holder.
The MSM also covered IRSgate and tea party accusations of political persecution by Obama. Less reported was the fact that progressive groups were also “targeted” by the IRS because a mushrooming number of partisan organizations on both sides were seeking nonpartisan tax breaks they didn’t deserve.
Benghazigate has also been extensively reported on, from the anti-Muslim film to former UN Ambassador Susan Rice’s talk show mishaps to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s humbling appearance before a congressional committee. If, after the fact, the Obama administration publicly minimized the terrorist connections to the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi for political reasons, so what?
More serious is the allegation that Obama and Clinton didn’t authorize a rescue mission for the same reason. But politics wasn’t the only consideration. There was also the very real possibility that a high-risk rescue operation could turn into another “Blackhawk Down,” with more American deaths and perhaps hostages.
The right claims the MSM wouldn’t be so obsessed with Bridgegate if Christie weren’t a Republican front-runner for president. Duh. Democrat or Republican, it’s called vetting, which should be done sooner rather than later. And so far, the media have found evidence of at least six instances of malfeasance by the Christie administration, not including the ongoing cover-up, that could one day turn into civil lawsuits, criminal indictments and/or articles of impeachment:
– in 2010, Christie’s appointed attorney general, Paula Dow, fired county prosecutors and quashed a 43-count grand jury indictment against Christie supporter and Hunterdon County Sheriff Deborah Trout, who was accused of public corruption;
– in 2012, Christie decided to spend $12 million of state money and inconvenience voters to hold a special election for a vacant Senate seat three weeks before his own election, ensuring popular Democrat Cory Booker wouldn’t be on the same ballot;
– in 2012, the Christie administration slashed Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s request for $100 million in Superstorm Sandy federal relief funds to $300,000, after the Democrat wouldn’t endorse Christie for governor;
– in 2013, as Christie was ramping up his re-election campaign, his administration spent $4.7 million in Superstorm Sandy federal relief funds on tourism ads starring the governor and his family, rejecting a $2 million bid for an ad not featuring the governor;
– in 2013, Christie officials rescinded offers of “new access to state commissioners, who hold the purse strings for many Jersey City services,” after its Democratic mayor, Steve Fulop, declined to endorse Christie; and
– in 2013, Christie’s deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, told David Wildstein, one of Christie’s appointees to the Port Authority, which oversees the busiest bridge in the world, to cause some traffic problems in Fort Lee, perhaps to punish the town’s Democratic mayor, Mark Sokolich, for not endorsing Christie.
Taken separately, some of these incidents might be written off as hardball politics, dirty but legal tricks, or the power of incumbency. Taken together, they add up to a pattern of abuse of power, of misusing government agencies and public funds for the personal political benefit of one person, Chris Christie.
Bridgegate is less Benghazigate than Watergate, which deservedly got a lot of coverage in its time. Politics aside, Christie has become a celebrity, a caricature, like the bullying “fat ass” Eric Cartman on “South Park.” So here’s another way to evaluate the media coverage: Which deserves more attention, government officials causing a massive traffic jam on the busiest bridge in the world, or a Lindsay Lohan fender-bender? As Christie would be the first to say, what a stupid question.