Et tu, Wildstein?

 (Cartoon by Rob Tornoe)

(Cartoon by Rob Tornoe)

On the day he sports a new yellow fleece in hopes of brightening up the darkened situation he faces, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie must realize this isn’t turning out to be quite the Super Bowl he had hoped for.

Four years ago, when it was announced that the Meadowlands had been chosen as the venue for the 2014 Super Bowl, Christie was riding high, beaming from ear to ear thinking about all the glory and credit fate would bestow upon him, as he began the first steps on his path towards the presidency.

But now that we’re on the eve of the game itself, where is the oversized personality pushing New Jersey and all its benefits from coast to coast? Instead of presiding over the games as some kind-of beloved “Jersey Caeser” (as The Record’s Charlie Stile put it),  he has completely receded, seeming only to agreeing to media events when preconditions are set.

At the same time, he’s stonewalling all requests for public records, an odd move for a former prosecutor who has promised transparency and openness, and has repeatedly asserted he has done nothing wrong. He’s even gone so far as to stack the very Ethics Commission investigating his administration with a pre-approved loyalist. 

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In a sad testament to how far Christie seems to have fallen, Bloomberg reported his campaign election team is trying to use leftover campaign funds to pay for his defense.Considering Christie’s lawyer alone is billing $650 an hour, this doesn’t seem like a bad idea, except it’s the same exact thing former state Senator (and Christie public corruption target) Wayne Bryant tried to do.

The state Supreme Court ruled against Bryant, noting that when one considers a donors’ intentions, “contributors do not expect that their candidate’s election will be a stepping stone to a criminal indictment.” Maybe Christie donors were expecting different?

Through it all, I can’t get Stile’s great line about Christie being a “Jersey Caeser” out of my head. It reminded me of one of the most famous and important passage’s of Shakespeare’s classic, when the nobleman Cassius is trying to persuade Brutus to help stop Julius Caesar from becoming monarch of Rome:

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

Cassius is making the point to Brutus, who was also close friends with Caeser, that we are all born free, and as such shouldn’t have to bow to another man. I can imagine similar conversations occurring throughout the legislature over the past couple of weeks. Once silenced by Christie’s power and ability to manipulate (using Sandy funds as a private slush fund helps), Democrats seem to be begging to find their voice, to stand up rather than be steam rolled.

Ft. Lee mayor Mark Sokolich fired the first shot when he wondered if Christie ordered the lanes shut down on the George Washington Bridge because the Democratic mayor refused to endorse Christie, who was seeking a second term. Next it was Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, who has offered to take a lie detector test on her claim that Sandy funds would be withheld if she didn’t support a development favored by the governor.

The latest to sound off is Christie’s former appointee to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, David Wildstein, who ordered the lanes closed. Wildstein’s attorney is now accusing Christie of lying about the scandal, claiming that the governor knew about the lane closures, as they happened, and that he had the evidence to prove it. 

Who will be the next to join the groundswell of support going after Jersey’s weakened Caeser? Will it be Bridget Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff who was fired and thrown under the bus by her former boss? Or will it another Democrat, like Belleville Mayor Raymond Kimble, who might begin to feel the ping of guilt after a housing project in his largely unscathed town, funded by Sandy funds, came just two weeks before his endorsement of Christie?

Or will it be someone else, now unknown, bursting in front of a camera unannounced declaring, “As he was valiant, I honor him. But as he was ambitious, I slew him.”


Rob Tornoe is a cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. Follow Rob on Twitter @RobTornoe

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