January 10, 2014

The George Washington Bridge: Candor and the Public Trust

The George Washington Bridge: Candor and the Public Trust

The first major political scandal of 2014 is unfolding about five miles from where I’m writing this, just across the bridge that is at the center of the controversy: the George Washington, which connects Northern New Jersey and New York.

It seems that some very close aides to N.J. Governor Chris Christie, a long-favored Republican front runner for the 2016 Presidential election, decided to retaliate against the Mayor of Fort Lee, N.J. where the GW connects on the Jersey side, for not endorsing Governor Christie in the 2012 N.J. governor race. What they allegedly did was to order the closing of several lanes of the bridge over a period of four days for the sole purpose of creating crippling traffic gridlock in Fort Lee. The tie-up was significant enough to make front page news as emergency vehicles, school children and commuters stagnated.

Christie’s aides denied any involvement for months. But the smoking gun was found on the digital trail. A series of emails and text messages were released by a New Jersey newspaper on Wednesday implicating the aides in this rapidly escalating scandal. So what did the Governor do? Exactly what he should have. He fired those involved and apologized to the people of New Jersey, including meeting with Mayor Mark Sokolich, for the inexcusable behavior of people who worked for him, whom he had trusted and who apparently took actions that Christie did not sanction, and then lied to him about it. He seemed genuinely blindsided by the actions of those he trusted.

Now regular readers of this column know that I’m a big Chris Christie fan. And I’m certainly not alone. Christie has earned the admiration of both Democrats and Republicans for his candid, no-nonsense leadership style. Even Mayor Sokolich is willing to accept the Governor at his word. By acting as quickly as he did this week, Christie again showed me what a decisive leader he is, refusing to accept or tolerate politically motivated decision-making that compromises the best interests of the public, among even his closest aides.

I’m sure there will be many more facts learned about this evolving scandal in the upcoming weeks and months as multiple government agencies conduct their own investigations into what really happened in Fort Lee last September. I can only hope the Governor turns out to be as straightforward and truthful as he appears and is truly the man I think he is. We need a candid, no-nonsense leader, and I for one will be sorely disappointed if Christie is pushed off the bridge.