Christie’s debt to a traf­fic jam

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Chris Christie owes a lot to the Fort Lee traf­fic jam. He’s get­ting a lot of street cred with the con­ser­va­tives who only yes­ter­day were skep­ti­cal of the gov­er­nor, re­mem­ber­ing his wet-kiss ro­mance with Barack Obama in the wake of Hur­ri­cane Sandy. He couldn’t be all bad if the Democrats — and par­tic­u­larly the par­ti­san cho­rus in the me­dia — are try­ing to de­stroy his pres­i­den­tial am­bi­tions.

The me­dia, wheez­ing and blow­ing hard to keep the story on the boil, and the gov­er­nor’s tor­men­tors in Tren­ton and Wash­ing­ton, are hys­ter­i­cally el­bow­ing each other out of the way to get to what they imag­ine is blood in the wa­ter. But it might turn out to be not blood, but razzberry Kool-Aid. We know what hap­pens when you drink the wrong the Kool-Aid.

The gov­er­nor’s tor­men­tors are what the frus­trated mea­nies in Mid­dle Amer­ica used to deride as the eastcoast/lib­snob/ com­symp/fag­punks, who in­habit a world de­tached from the rest of the coun­try and its anx­i­eties, con­cerns and as­sorted pains. Read­ers, view­ers and vot­ers in Val­dosta, Topeka, East Gon­dola and points be­tween have more on their minds than a traf­fic jam in New Jersey, and if they think about it at all, prob­a­bly fig­ure that if com­muters from New York City are in­con­ve­nienced, it’s no more than they de­serve.

The traf­fic jam at the New Jersey end of the Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Bridge — what the dull and unimag­i­na­tive with no gift for clever lan­guage are call­ing “Bridge­gate” — is ac­tu­ally about worn out, and Mon­day, ev­ery­one was pil­ing on about a $25 mil­lion ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign to lure tourists to the Jersey shore af­ter Hur­ri­cane Sandy.

It’s an ill wind that blows no­body good, and cer­tain Repub­li­can politi­cians won’t let the good of the party get in the way of pil­ing on when a ri­val, or even a po­ten­tial ri­val, goes down. Ron­ald Rea­gan’s fa­mous Eleventh Com­mand­ment — “Speak no ill of another Repub­li­can” — gets no trac­tion when dogs are din­ing on dogs. Rand Paul, the Repub­li­can se­na­tor from Ken­tucky, got his licks in early in an­tic­i­pa­tion of run­ning against the gov­er­nor for the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion in 2016, and the pun­dits pulled his re­marks out of the Au­gust archives on Mon­day. “When peo­ple are try­ing to do good and try­ing to use the tax­pay­ers’ money wisely,” he said back in Au­gust, his piety on proud dis­play, “they’re of­fended to see our money spent on po­lit­i­cal ads.”

Rep. Frank Pal­lone Jr., New Jersey Demo­crat, wants the gov­ern­ment to in­ves­ti­gate. “This was money that could have been di­rectly used for Sandy re­cov­ery. Many of my con­stituents still haven’t got­ten the money that is owed to them to re­build their homes or to help.” Ac­tu­ally, Sandy re­cov­ery was the point of try­ing to get tourists to re­turn to New Jersey, but if Mr. Pal­lone wants to speed up the relief money you might think he would ad­dress his con­cerns to Pres­i­dent Obama, who con­trols the fed­eral spigot.

Democrats hardly know how to crit­i­cize gov­ern­ment spend­ing, and the heat be­gan to evap­o­rate on this point when it turned out that the White House ap­proved the tele­vi­sion cam­paign, which may or may not stop the me­dia weep­ing and wail­ing. Not much does. E.J. Dionne Jr., who cries tears by the bucket for The Wash­ing­ton Post, writes that the great fear strid­ing the land “is that a leader or the co­terie around him will abuse the au­thor­ity of the state ar­bi­trar­ily, to gather yet more power, pun­ish op­po­nents and, in the process, harm rank-and-file cit­i­zens whose well­be­ing mat­ters not a whit to those who are try­ing to en­hance their con­trol.” Many of his read­ers gasped, a few fainted, and some had to be re­vived in the emer­gency room, think­ing that he, one of the nois­i­est of the pres­i­dent’s lap dogs, had un­ac­count­ably be­gun to write about the pres­i­dent turn­ing the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice loose on his Repub­li­can crit­ics. Just in time, E.J. made it clear that he was talk­ing about the traf­fic jam, not Form 1040gate.

Scan­dal­gates just aren’t what they used to be. Richard Nixon, the orig­i­nal gate-gate man, was big­ger than a traf­fic jam. Even ol’ Bubba, with his red­neck Don Juan im­per­son­ation, usu­ally left them laugh­ing, if not ex­actly cry­ing for more.

If the Repub­li­cans are the tough guys some of them think they are, they’ll in­tro­duce a con­gres­sional res­o­lu­tion de­mand­ing a joint in­ves­ti­ga­tion of of­fi­cial abuse — Mr. Christie’s cul­pa­bil­ity in traf­fic con­trol and Mr. Obama’s cul­pa­bil­ity in IRS tax re­venge. Who could op­pose it? Let’s see the White House dance to that tune. Wes­ley Pruden is ed­i­tor emer­i­tus of The Wash­ing­ton Times.

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