The George Washington Bridge traffic jam scheme apparently hatched in New Jesey Gov. Chris Christie's executive offices is a legitimate political scandal of undetermined magnitude. Pundits who dismiss it as a non-issue seem to a) assume that nothing more will be discovered, b) discount how serious a violation of public trust the lane closures were, and c) not know how passionate New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary voters are about the misuse of state power.
On Aug. 13 of last year, Bridget Kelly, deputy chief of staff to Gov. Christie, emailed David Wildstein, a Christie appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey: "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee." Wildstein emailed back, "Got it." Weeks later, the Port Authority closed two access lanes for the George Washington Bridge — the world's busiest — in Fort Lee.
Regarding the closures, the public knows little more than that. Were they retribution for Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat, not endorsing Christie for governor? (The Wall Street Journal identified then-Christie aide Matt Mowers, now the executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party, as the staffer sent to ask Sokolich to consider endorsing Christie.) Were they to harm a big development in Fort Lee? The motive remains a mystery, as does the full list of participants.
Two legislative committees in New Jersey are scheduled to begin investigating the closures today. What they and some enterprising journalists find is likely to determine whether Christie strides into New Hampshire next year as a viable presidential candidate.
If Christie was telling the truth when he spent two hours last Thursday denying any involvement in or knowledge of the scheme to close those lanes, he can weather this storm, though trusting staffers capable of such vindictiveness will be considered a mark against him. If he was not telling the truth, his political career should be finished. The American public must not tolerate any politician of any party who would callously turn the machinery of the state against the people for his own personal gain.