PRUDEN: Christie’s debt to a traffic jam

He can’t be all bad if the Democrats and media are this scared of him

Chris Christie owes a lot to the Fort Lee traffic jam. He’s getting a lot of street cred with the conservatives who only yesterday were skeptical of the governor, remembering his wet-kiss romance with Barack Obama in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. He couldn’t be all bad if the Democrats — and particularly the partisan chorus in the media — are trying to destroy his presidential ambitions.

The media, wheezing and blowing hard to keep the story on the boil, and the governor’s tormentors in Trenton and Washington, are hysterically elbowing each other out of the way to get to what they imagine is blood in the water. But it might turn out to be not blood, but razzberry Kool-Aid. We know what happens when you drink the wrong the Kool-Aid.

The governor’s tormentors are what the frustrated meanies in Middle America used to deride as the eastcoast/libsnob/comsymp/fagpunks, who inhabit a world detached from the rest of the country and its anxieties, concerns and assorted pains. Readers, viewers and voters in Valdosta, Topeka, East Gondola and points between have more on their minds than a traffic jam in New Jersey, and if they think about it at all, probably figure that if commuters from New York City are inconvenienced, it’s no more than they deserve.

The traffic jam at the New Jersey end of the George Washington Bridge — what the dull and unimaginative with no gift for clever language are calling “Bridgegate” — is actually about worn out, and Monday, everyone was piling on about a $25 million advertising campaign to lure tourists to the Jersey shore after Hurricane Sandy.

It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good, and certain Republican politicians won’t let the good of the party get in the way of piling on when a rival, or even a potential rival, goes down. Ronald Reagan’s famous Eleventh Commandment — “Speak no ill of another Republican” — gets no traction when dogs are dining on dogs. Rand Paul, the Republican senator from Kentucky, got his licks in early in anticipation of running against the governor for the Republican nomination in 2016, and the pundits pulled his remarks out of the August archives on Monday. “When people are trying to do good and trying to use the taxpayers’ money wisely,” he said back in August, his piety on proud display, “they’re offended to see our money spent on political ads.”

Traffic passes through the toll booths at the George Washington Bridge, in Fort Lee, N.J., Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014. The September lane closings near the George Washington Bridge that caused huge traffic jams and now threaten the rise of Republican star Chris Christie violated federal law, a chief official said in an email ordering the lanes reopened.   The Sept. 13 email was among thousands of pages released Friday by a New Jersey legislative committee investigating the scandal, which could haunt Christie's expected run for president in 2016. The documents mostly involve the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency that runs the heavily trafficked bridge. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

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Traffic passes through the toll booths at the George Washington Bridge, in ... more >

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., New Jersey Democrat, wants the government to investigate. “This was money that could have been directly used for Sandy recovery. Many of my constituents still haven’t gotten the money that is owed to them to rebuild their homes or to help.” Actually, Sandy recovery was the point of trying to get tourists to return to New Jersey, but if Mr. Pallone wants to speed up the relief money you might think he would address his concerns to President Obama, who controls the federal spigot.

Democrats hardly know how to criticize government spending, and the heat began to evaporate on this point when it turned out that the White House approved the television campaign, which may or may not stop the media weeping and wailing. Not much does.

E.J. Dionne Jr., who cries tears by the bucket for The Washington Post, writes that the great fear striding the land “is that a leader or the coterie around him will abuse the authority of the state arbitrarily, to gather yet more power, punish opponents and, in the process, harm rank-and-file citizens whose well-being matters not a whit to those who are trying to enhance their control.”

Many of his readers gasped, a few fainted, and some had to be revived in the emergency room, thinking that he, one of the noisiest of the president’s lap dogs, had unaccountably begun to write about the president turning the Internal Revenue Service loose on his Republican critics. Just in time, E.J. made it clear that he was talking about the traffic jam, not Form 1040gate.

Scandalgates just aren’t what they used to be. Richard Nixon, the original gate-gate man, was bigger than a traffic jam. Even ol’ Bubba, with his redneck Don Juan impersonation, usually left them laughing, if not exactly crying for more.

If the Republicans are the tough guys some of them think they are, they’ll introduce a congressional resolution demanding a joint investigation of official abuse — Mr. Christie’s culpability in traffic control and Mr. Obama’s culpability in IRS tax revenge. Who could oppose it? Let’s see the White House dance to that tune.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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