Yo, Christie! The bridge tolls for thee

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks to reporters after appearing on a sports talk radio show in New York

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks to reporters after appearing on a sports talk radio show in New York

    Imagine the outcry if Hillary Clinton’s transition team was led by a scandal-plagued sleaze whose gubernatorial reign was best known for shutting traffic lanes on a major bridge, jeopardizing the public’s safety for the sole purpose of punishing a local mayor who’d refused to endorse.

    Let’s try a little test.

    Imagine the outcry if Hillary Clinton’s transition team was led by a scandal-plagued sleaze whose gubernatorial reign was best known for shutting traffic lanes on a major bridge, jeopardizing the public’s safety for the sole purpose of punishing a local mayor who’d refused to endorse. Imagine the outcry if Clinton’s transition leader was named by federal prosecutors, on day one of a major federal trial, as being fully aware of the bridge scandal while it was happening. Imagine the outcry if Clinton then came forward to robustly defend her aide, calling him “a spectacular advocate.”

    We all know what would happen. The mainstream media would nail Clinton for the “perception” that a “shadow” had been cast over her campaign. They would assail her for refusing to dump the aide. They would amplify Donald Trump’s inevitable declaration that this episode proved the perfidy of “Crooked Hillary.”

    But since Trump is inexplicably permitted to play by banana-republic rules, there will be no such equivalent oucry over the fact that his own transition leader, Chris Christie, was outed yesterday in federal court by a prosecutor who said he was fully aware of the bridge closures while they were happening. It was a milestone moment in the long-running scandal, the first time that a federal official has said such a thing in a formal judicial proceeding, and it flatly contradicted Christie’s long-running lie (which he repeated Sunday on CNN) that he has been exonerated by all the investigations.

    At the start of yesterday’s federal trial – two former senior Christie aides are charged with conspiring to cause the traffic jams – the prosecutor said, “The evidence will show” that one of the defendants, along with a Christie aide who’s helping the prosecution, met with Christie during Bridgegate and “bragged about the fact that there were traffic problems in Fort Lee and that Mayor Sokolich was not getting his calls returned.” (Sokolich was calling to report “a public safety emergency,” to no avail. And the two Christie aides were bragging to the governor…during a 9/11 memorial ceremony, no less.)

    Christie in the past has said he doesn’t remember any such conversation (natch), but the beauty of this trial is that the prosecutors and the defense lawyers are in agreement that the conversation occurred.

    But that’s OK with Trump, who’s never bothered by any “perception” of a “shadow” over his campaign. After yesterday’s court revelation, he simply issued a statement: “After (Christie’s) recent run for president, he called me to say he would like to endorse me…and he has been a spectacular advocate ever since.” (He sure has. On Sunday, he told CNN that Trump had not spent the past five years banging on birtherism. Lying for Der Leader is what spectacular advocates do.)

    Trump didn’t mention what happened in court; heck, he didn’t say anything about Bridgegate, and certainly not the fact that the only probe exonerating Christie was conducted by a Christie-friendly law firm, nor the fact that New Jersey taxpayers have shelled out $10 million for Christie’s legal bills.

    But hey, Trump is already on record about Bridgegate. He said this about Christie last winter: “The George Washington Bridge. He knew about it. They’re closing up the largest bridge in the world, the biggest in the United States, traffic flowing, during rush hour people couldn’t get across for six, seven hours, ambulances, fire trucks….He knew about it, knew about it. Totally knew about it.”

    So, back to our test. Imagine what would happen if Hillary Clinton ever issued a statement of support for a top aide who was outed in federal court – just nine months after she herself declared that aide to be guilty of the same behavior that was outed in federal court.

    I rest my case.

    ——-

    Occasionally I’ll read something that’s so good, so well argued, that I wished I had written it.

    Gary Sick, a foreign policy expert who served in the National Security Council under three presidents (two Republicans, one Democrat), surfaced on Facebook the other day to game out what would happen if Trump were to win this election. Over to you, sir:

    Donald Trump might not beat William Henry Harrison, who lasted only 32 days in office, but I suspect he would be one of the shortest in American history. He would probably be under indictment almost from the day he was elected (for lying about Trump U, among many other possibilities, e.g. tax evasion or attempted bribery of a political official). But he would also be impeachment-bait, even if he just kept on doing what he has always been doing: using his public position to enrich himself and his relatives; adopting policy positions in response to foreign contributions to his organization; subordinating the public good to his own enrichment; consorting with foreign criminal elements; acting on the basis of demonstrably false information; and disregarding the law when it does not serve his interests. This is the life style of renegade tycoons and tin pot dictators in banana republics, but such actions are illegal (not to mention immoral) for the leader of the most powerful nation on earth. His own party knows that, and I suspect they would not fall on their swords to protect him.

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    Not that you’re wondering, but…The headline today is a play on words from the poem by John Donne:

    Therefore, send not to know /For whom the bell tolls/ It tolls for thee.

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    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

     

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