By Joseph Gerth
If you’re looking for a winner on last week’s national political scene, look no further than Kentucky’s U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, who benefited not by what he did but what somebody else did.
Those of you following the national news know that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie almost imploded this week under the weight of the George Washington Bridge.
Christie, of course, is shaping up at this point as Paul’s chief competition for the GOP presidential nomination. The George Washington Bridge is the most heavily traveled bridge in the world, connecting New Jersey to New York.
Some of Christie’s aides thought it would be fun to punish the town of Fort Lee by shutting access lanes to the bridge, causing a huge traffic jam in the town that lasted four days.
Most of the speculation as to why Christie’s aides did this has centered around Democratic Mayor Mark Sokolich’s refusal to endorse Christie for reelection last year.
That doesn’t necessarily make a lot of sense because lots of Democratic mayors in New Jersey didn’t endorse Christie and didn’t have their cities and towns shut down.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has another theory: That Christy was upset by the state Democratic Senate’s plans to challenge his reappointment of New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Helen Hoen, the wife of a member of his administration.
Maddow points out that Fort Lee is represented in the state Senate by Loretta Weinberg, the Democratic leader.
The day after an angry Christie pulled Hoen’s nomination, saying he didn’t want to put her though the nomination process, one of his top staffers sent a now infamous email to another Christie appointee on The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey saying, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
During the shutdown, at least four ambulances were delayed by the heavy Fort Lee traffic. One 91-year-old woman died when paramedics couldn’t make it to her in time.
Two Port Authority officials resigned in the wake of the controversy. Last week, Christie fired his deputy chief of staff, Bridget Ann Kelly, saying she ordered the shutdown without his knowledge or permission and then lied about it, and he cut ties with his former campaign manager, who was also involved.
A Democratic-controlled state Assembly panel is continuing its investigation into the incident to see whether Christie knew more than he is letting on.
During a press conference last week, he denied knowing of his administration’s involvement and said, “I am not a bully.” You could almost hear Richard Nixon saying, “I am not a crook.”
New Jersey state Senator Barbara Buono, who lost to Christie in November, said Friday on MSNBC that she doesn’t believe Christie will be able to survive the scandal. “Either the governor’s lying or he’s incompetent, but my prediction is this: he will be leaving the governor’s office before his term is up, but it won’t be to run for president,” she said.
Paul seems to be getting a kick out of it all. CNN reported Friday that he responded to the situation by saying, “I don’t know who e-mailed whom, who works for whom. I have been in traffic before and I know how angry I am, and I’m always wondering, who did this.”