Traverse City Record-Eagle

January 12, 2014

George Weeks: Latest example of political scandal fallout

Syndicated columnist

---- — “A person close to me betrayed me.”

— New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

As dramatically evident recently, top executives in government sometimes suffer mightily from actions of their inner circle subordinates.

Sometimes appointees are simply inept, as in the case of the botched rollout of Obamacare that has been costly to President Barack Obama in public opinion polls.

Sometimes aides are more devious than inept.

Last week, the political scandal fallout was huge for pugnacious New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie as he apologized repeatedly during a nearly two-hour press conference for the “abject stupidly” of his team members who orchestrated or supported four days of traffic jams as retribution against a Democratic mayor who opposed his reelection.

“I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team,” Christie said at his Jan. 9 conference, where he insisted that he didn’t know of their plans for September lane closings that caused major backups at the George Washington Bridge. He previously had asserted that his staff had nothing to do with the gridlock, which delayed emergency vehicles, school buses and countless commuters for four days.

Christie fired Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelley “because she lied to me“ when he insisted that those who knew about the caper fess up. Two other insiders earlier resigned.

I was impressed with embattled Christie’s press conference performance. Initial reaction of several national TV commentors was that he was believable and it is a survivable scandal if he runs for president.

But considerable skepticism was voiced by guests and host Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC’s The Last Word show, and other negative assessments flared. Furthermore, new documents are surfacing, and federal and legislative inquiries are underway. The unfolding Bridgegate scandal already has underscored how those who are hired to serve on occasion do destructive disservice.

A legislator in charge of an investigation said Saturday that as of then there was no evidence that Christie knew of the plot or was part of it—but the inquiry continued.

I doubt that it would happen, but if Christie should be found to be fudging the truth, he would not be the first chief executive to do so or mislead. For example: Obama: “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.”

George H.W. Bush: “Read my lips: No new taxes!”

Bill Clinton: “I did not have sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.”

Richard Nixon (who had devious aides and went through an extended who-knew-whatwhen episode during Watergate: “I am not a crook.”

Under the dictionary definition, not a professional criminal, but surely a dishonest person.

George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame, for 22 years was the political columnist for The Detroit News and previously with UPI as Lansing bureau chief and foreign editor in Washington. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.