Nel's New Day

March 28, 2014

Christie’s Solution: Blame the Women

The dangerous traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey to New York happened almost seven months ago, but Gov. Chris Christie’s problems aren’t going away.

Earlier this week, Christie released a report from his personal lawyer exonerating him at a $1-million cost to the state’s taxpayers. The 344-page report was prepared for the man who Christie calls a “very dear friend,” the man who Christie award a lucrative corporate-monitoring contract in 2007. The $650-per-hour guy did leave a few holes. Investigators didn’t interview David Wildstein, the former director of interstate capital projects at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who was targeted as the person behind the lane closures. They also didn’t talk with Bridget Anne Kelly, the governor’s former deputy chief of staff, and Bill Stepien, the governor’s former campaign manager. Nor did they talk to David Samson, Port Authority chair and Christie ally who is also involved in the cover-up. All four of these people no longer work for Christie.

Also in the report:

  • Kelly sent the eight-word “time for traffic problems in Fort Lee” email the day after she checked on whether the Fort Lee mayor had endorsed Christie. He didn’t, and Kelly wrote that this was all she needed to know.
  • Wildstein said that Christie knew about the closure when it was happening although the governor gave different times when he was asked–maybe weeks afterward, maybe right after the lanes reopened, maybe during the closures. Although Wildstein told Christie about it at a 9/11 memorial on the third day of the closures, the report just states that Christie didn’t pay much attention to is. The lead lawyer, Randy Mastro, said, “There are traffic problems all the time with the bridges and tunnels, so that would not be a significant event, a memorable event.”
  • Stepian also knew that the closure was for retribution. Before it happened, he called it one of Wildstein’s “50 crazy ideas.” Stepian also received angry forwarded emails from the Fort Lee mayor during the closure, called the mayor an “idiot” in notes to Wildstein, and praised him for his savvy. While the report provides this information, it claims, “We found no evidence [that Stepian] knew of the ulterior motive here, besides the claimed purpose of conducting a traffic study.”

The report’s conclusion blames only two people: Wildstein and Kelly. The report insinuates that Kelly orchestrated the closures because she had been “personally involved” with Stepian and he had dumped her. Kelly is described as “emotional,” “erratic,” and a liar. The references to her as a recently divorced mom add to the “slut-shaming.” By reporting that “events in Kelly’s personal life may have had some bearing on her subjective motivations and state of mind,” the authors suggest that her female emotional distress led her to cause the traffic jam that affected tens of thousands of commuters.

Even Stepian thought the report went too far. His lawyer released a statement denouncing the report’s “gratuitous reference” to Stepian’s “brief” relationship with Kelly as “a regrettable distraction.”

The report also alleges that Kelly asked an aide to delete an incriminating email at the beginning of the investigation. Mastro’s report heaps blame on Kelly, noting that Kelly got Stepian’s old job “though she lacked Stepien’s expertise and background.” One of the criticisms of Christie was that he canceled meetings with Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop. The report accused Kelly of canceling the meetings although documentation clearly shows otherwise.

Another finding of the report is that Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s claims, that Christie refused Sandy recovery funds to her city because she didn’t support a Christie-supported development, is “demonstrably false” and “do not match objective reality.”

Proof that Zimmer didn’t feel strong-armed, according to the investigators, came from a video tape of a PBS political panel. She yawned. “A person does not normally yawn when being threatened, coerced, or spoken to improperly,” according to the report. And she smiled.  “Yawning during the middle of commissioner constable’s statements and then smiling during the end of his statements is hardly the demeanor one would expect of someone who is actually being threatened,” stated the report.  There was no mention of whether any of the men involved in the scandal either yawned or smiled.

Notable about the report is that there is no documentation of what the investigators claim to have examined. No text messages, emails, or other documents. As Rachel Maddow said, “They just published this one long narrative today, with unrelenting, glowing, gauzy characterizations of Governor Christie’s strength and leadership and character throughout this difficult time.”

MSNBC’s conservative show Morning Joe, unflaggingly supportive of Christie during the scandal, is shocked by the report. Mark Halperin called the attacks on Kelly “sexist and gratuitous,” and Joe Scarborough compared Mastro to “Baghdad Bob.” Christie may escape from this one, too, because both the men are blaming Mastro, and not Christie. The man hired to prepare the report may be the next Christie associate to get thrown under the bus.

Even Norm Ornstein, a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute think tank, found the report wanting. “The idea that this is an independent report and that [Randy Mastro is] not basically a lawyer for the defense I found almost laughable,” he said.

For $1 million, taxpayers got the following advice: administration staff should be restricted from using personal email accounts to conduct official business, and Christie should hire an ethics officer. If so, that person might want to work with Christie and his lawyers on sensitivity training.

This weekend, Christie is still following his dreams of being president as he heads to Las Vegas to get campaign money out of Sheldon Adelson at the Republican Jewish Coalition meeting. He’ll need more than money to overcome his overt sexist bullying.

The bridge closure was a non-story until a transportation reporter for Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal metro New York section started to follow it. Large chunks of the report show Christie followers frantically responding to questions and articles from Ted Mann. When Rachel Maddow picked up on the story, it went viral, and the media hasn’t let go. Without the Fifth Estate, Christie might have easily sailed to the top of the GOP presidential heap and even gone on to run the country.

Although Christie claims that he had done nothing to close the bridge lanes, the constitutional question, shown by Richard Nixon’s dilemma, is whether he knew anything about it when it was happening. The report doesn’t address that issue. Yet his press conference today showed the old Christie as he responded to reporters’ questions. “I don’t know whether you can’t take notes or you can’t listen,” he said to one of them and then before called his question “awful and beneath the job you hold.” He snapped at another one when he cut off her question, “You have to get the facts right if you’re going to ask me a question.”

Christie and Mastro may have gone too far with their misogyny.  Kelly is known as a determined, honest, hard-working person. Today her lawyer issued a statement:

“There appear to be two distinct versions of the George Washington Bridge lane closings. On the one hand, Mr. Wildstein, through his counsel, has taken one clear position. On the other hand, Mr. Mastro has staked a different view. Thus, Ms. Kelly’s evidence could be critical to verifying either of the two competing versions of events… The only credible investigation into the lane closings is being conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. If Ms. Kelly were provided with the appropriate procedural safeguards, she will be fully cooperative and provide truthful and complete answers to any questions asked of her by the appropriate law enforcement authorities.”

It’s like a badly written novel that we can’t stop readingl.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] Concern over Gov. Christie's safety takes detour in New JerseyN.J. Gov. Christie says U.S. should end limits on crude exportsChristie’s Solution: Blame the Women […]

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    Pingback by Bridgegate 911 calls released — September 10, 2014 @ 10:18 AM | Reply


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