The Character Of Chris Christie, Ctd

As I absorb the on-going presser by Christie, here are Toobin, Gergen, Davis, Anderson and I tossing around the bridge scandal on AC360 Later last night:

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A reader dissents:

I am a long-time reader and devotee, but I don’t understand your hostility towards Christie. I’m admittedly biased, of course. As a New Jersey Democrat who’s fallen hard for this big guy (daylight between us on social issues not withstanding), I know that I have a very particular point of view on the governor that is not universally shared. He’s our hometown flavor of blunt and brassy, I get that. But your post on the emails by Bridget Anne Kelly is so vitriolic and unfair that I felt I had to write and say so.

Christie, the man himself, is “a vindictive, petty, egomaniac” and a “bully… or a liar” because someone who works for him did something contemptible? You’re kidding me, right? That’s the threshold for summarily trashing a guy’s character? Is there any evidence whatsoever that the governor ordered or directly approved these actions? Any evidence at all that he even knew about them? Did you or did you not rightly defend the president from the all of the low-blow character assignation stuff that played the same song on Reverend Wright, William Ayers, Khalidi, etc.? Do any of those people make President Obama a racist, terrorist, anti-semite? Of course not.

There are plenty of reasons not to want Christie as president without having to rabbit-punch a guy who, in my personal experience, is a pretty big-hearted and compassionate fella. Until there is hard evidence to the contrary, please try to keep the transitive personal character stuff to a minimum, okay?

Another differs quite a bit:

Honestly. The bottom line here is that Christie knew about this. The “staffers” in question include people who have been friends of his since fucking high school. These are not random underlings US-POLITICS-CEO-CHRIS CHRISTIEgoing off on a lark. There is no way he didn’t know. Now, that can’t ever be proven unless Christie was stupid enough to be recorded talking about it with these staff members, but come on.

His denials shouldn’t pass the smell test in any sort of sane and accountable democracy. That our media (and citizenry! ye gods) is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on a case like this – which is more clear cut than anything short of the Nixon tapes or a semen stain on a dress – just speaks to how deferential we are to power and how little the needle of our collective outrage is moved by even obvious corruption and abuse of power. (See also e.g.: The torture scandal and many officials’ “I can’t recall” statements when questioned about what they knew and when. We routinely let all sorts of powerful officials get away with this kind of denial-of-the-obvious-facts, but that doesn’t make it right.)

Another echoes Toobin:

Chris Christie is in very deep trouble. In fact, he’s toast. Those who poopoo the implications of this scandal underestimate a very important part of this scandal: that it’s one that’s very easy for voters to understand. This isn’t some complex money-laundering scandal involving complex financial instruments. It is, instead, as you rightly noted, an intentionally-constructed traffic jam that inflicted suffering, pain, and perhaps death on his own constituents.

Another is on the same page:

Did the Christie-bridge debacle kill anyone? That’s what I want to know.  Did anyone die in an ambulance trying to make it to a hospital?  Did anyone die in the ER waiting for a delayed doctor to get there?  Did anyone’s child suffer preventable brain damage for these same reasons?  My guess is that this may well have happened, and if it did, and a reporter or political operative finds the evidence, Christie is in for a world of hurt, and deservedly so.

Update from a reader:

An elderly woman was stuck in an ambulance and didn’t make it.

Another reframes the media debate:

The Christie scandal, in my opinion, really shows what’s wrong with the press today. A governor either took some petty revenge on his own constituents (with possible devastating results), or was too incompetent to know that his staff was doing so (or however you want to frame this), and the media speculates about his chances for 2016.

Shouldn’t people speculate about his chances to still be governor in 2014? Not to throw out an old trope, but if I started “exacting revenge” at work people wouldn’t so much speculate about my chances for a promotion as much as they would speculate about when I was going to be fired. Isn’t there any responsibility by the media to actually discuss the role of governing, as opposed to just politics?

On that note, many readers are taking apart Christie’s tenure:

I’d be interested if your “Democrat” reader who calls Chris Christie “our asshole (but) he gets things done” could actually tell us what Christie has gotten done.  Property taxes are still rising, and thanks to Christie’s cuts in aid to property-tax payers, homeowners are paying more out of pocket than before Christie.  We lost out on millions of federal dollars for Race to the Top thanks to Christie’s administration missing a deadline. We lost out on even more in federal dollars and economic grown when Christie unilaterally cancelled the new tunnel to New York City.  During Sandy, Christie’s administration moved millions of dollars of trains into the flood zone and they were destroyed. Last spring, thousands of taxpayers had their refunds held due to … no one knows.  Christie has slow-played medical marijuana at the cost of thousands of people’s health, blocked marriage equality, spent more resources on investigating abortion clinics, and pulled us out of the regional greenhouse gas initiative. At the same time New Jersey’s employment rate is higher than any of our neighbors in the North East, and our recovery is slower.

The only real “success” is getting federal aid for Sandy recovery, but it’s not like we weren’t going to get that anyway.  What did hugging Obama and slamming the Congress actually get us?  Then the aid was slow in arriving, and the multi-million dollar fund he and his wife created for Sandy recovery still hasn’t given away half of what it raised. What exactly is it that Chris Christie has gotten done?  Besides being “our asshole.”

Another reader:

Remember, this is the governor who nixed a desperately needed trans-Hudson train tunnel to establish his bonafides as a cost cutter with national Republicans. It would be a delicious piece of poetic justice if trans-Hudson traffic jams proved his undoing.

Another drills down on the tunnel:

Not only was the Access to the Region’s Core project a New Jersey priority, it was a national priority. One of the reasons there’s only two trains to DC at 5-ish in the afternoon is that there is no more space in the existing tunnels. If Amtrak had the cars and locomotives I’m sure there could be a few more trains. A 5:15 and a 5:30 to start. Christie did it to punish all those awful people who want to go to vile disgusting Manhattan, lots of them not stereotypical straight white guys. Pity he got reelected. Amtrak is busy planning on spending more money to build something that will have slightly less capacity and, this is my opinion, sucks compared to Access to the Region’s Core. ARC was going to be in “Macy’s Basement” with long escalator rides to 34th Street. With more or less direct connections to the subway. So all the people who used it, who would be getting on the subway, wouldn’t be in Penn Station. The Gateway plan has the southern most platform at approxiamately 30th Street and all the people who want the subway will have to walk across Penn Station. And the ones who don’t will have to walk across Penn Station instead of taking an escalator ride to 34th and 35th. I think the new entrances were on 35th. They may have been on 36th.

Update from a reader:

Your readers are wrong on the tunnel project. The problem with ARC simply is that it ended in a dead-end cavern, that did not connect to any of the other city transit infrastructure. It was utterly limited from a transportation point of view, and if you speak to any infrastructure expert, they will summarily agree. The other thing is that the tunnels would have been exclusively for NJ Transit, thus again limiting the connectivity of the network.

I agree that Christie canceled it for the wrong reasons, but he did the whole region a favor as many of the alternatives proposed (including the Gateway project), are much better as they connect to Penn Station, thus allowing Amtrak, NJT, etc to use the tunnels.

Of course the ideal would be for what was called Alt-G (the ultimate ARC tunnel was Alt-P in the various plans chosen), which would have also had a tunnel from Penn Station to Grand Central, integrating the whole transportation network. Alas, that will never happen.

Another sees a more systemic problem:

I started as a low-level employee at a big New Jersey state agency, and the governor is running them into the ground. They’ve been forcing out upper-management-level scientists at the DEP, professional engineers at the DOT and NJTransit and replacing them with real-estate and business cronies. These cronies are remarkably stupid and have implemented policies that have caused the state to go from being a model in the areas of efficiency and safety to laughing stocks in the country. I have a few private examples, but the biggest public one is the NJTransit train car flooding scandal.

When Jim Simpson took over as chairman of transit, one important directive he put into place is that no agency is to publicly acknowledge the existence of climate change. Or a need for additional infrastructure spending. This is supposed to only be for the public, but the internals have been run even worse. As Sarah Gonzales of NPR reported recently, before Hurricane Sandy, there was no storm preparedness plan in place for Transit or the DOT except for a two-page, fully redacted document. The MTA had considerably more planning done, for a much smaller area, and a comparable population. The fully redacted document was eventually unredacted (you can read it, there was no reason to be redacted except for surreal secrecy and ass-covering) and was depressing in how crappy it was. In interdepartmental presentations, our departments have again put presentation of how “well” we reacted to Sandy over acknowledging mistakes and fixing them.

Either he, or his picked cronies are pretty awful in how they are managing state agencies. There’s a huge brain drain now, as people (like me!) flee to other jobs because of how dysfunctional it is. If he becomes president, be prepared for more crappy cronies getting positions of power and then abusing it because they’re assholes.

(Photo by Paul J Richards/Getty)