Traffic jams may have spelt the end to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s hopes of being a credible Republican presidential candidate in 2016.
Previously he had won a reputation as a straight-talking Republican able to win over Democrats, unencumbered by Tea Party dogma, and with a common-touch that made many friends. That is now in tatters and he is coming across as a bully after aides conducted dirty tricks on another politicial that created traffic chaos for an entire town.
Leaked emails seem to show some of his staff plotting the four-day lane closures last September at the George Washington Bridge that connects New York and New Jersey.
Critics said that was done in a bid to punish the Democratic mayor of the town of Fort Lee, at the New Jersey end of the bridge, because he had declined to endorse Christie’s re-election effort.
“I come out here today to apologise to the people of New Jersey. I apologise to the people of Fort Lee and I apologise to the members of the state legislature. I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team,” said Christie, who belatedly fired his Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Ann Kelly.
At a news conference, Christie referred to the lane closings as a “rogue political operation”.
“I am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here,” Christie said. “This was handled in a callous and indifferent way, and this is not the way this administration has conducted itself over the last four years.”
School buses were stuck in jams for hours, and there were delays getting sick people to hospital. A local newspaper reported emergency responders were held up in attending to four medical situations – one involving an unconscious 91-year-old woman who later died of cardiac arrest and another, a car accident, in which four people were injured.
That Christies’ aides – three of whom have been fired – overstepped their authority without his knowledge is one thing; that the Governor was unable to stop it, or even conduct better damage limitations, or say some cynically, organise what should have been an easy cover-up, says volumes about his political abilities, and presidential aspirations.