Honk If You Think He’s Guilty!

A number of my readers are alarmed that my series “The Christie Chronicles” seems to have ended, a case of scandal interruptus.

Not so lucky. It should only last 18 or 19 more episodes.

I don’t know what has gotten into me lately. My mind has been so easily distracted, straying from an important subject that has been mesmerizing the nation since September.

The other week I found myself coming to the defense of my favorite bi-state monopoly, our beleaguered Port Authority of New Jersey & New York (that’s not a spellczech error). Some thought the essay — “These Are the Tolls that Try Men’s Souls”, in case you missed it — was a masterpiece. “But what about women’s souls,” asked Letty Pogrebin?

I feel sorry for all those bi-states that don’t have their own bi-state authority dens of inquity like ours.

And then I was in a funk because the Pittsburgh Pirates stopped raising the Jolly Roger this season. Having set the all-time never to be broken record of 20 consecutive losing seasons by a professional franchise in North America, they may be on a start of a new streak this spring. Little known to the world, I have been sitting shiva since the Bucs lost to the Cardinals in the last game of the 2013 NLCS playoff series, just about when the Ft. Lee lane closure GWB scandal began in September. The gnashing of teeth, rending of garments, smiting breast and thigh of thine enemy and mine took a lot of out of me.

Usually stories about malfeasance, misfeasance and no-feasance by public officials are a boring story, one that turns people off. Political corruption is so commonplace nowadays, it’s almost as if one can say it’s as American as apple pie and ice cream. (See Lincoln Steffens’ “Shame of the Cities,” McClure’s Magazine, 1901-5).

But there is something different about New Jersey political scandals. Shortcomings in ethics and morality, the usual investing special interests with undue power at the expense of hurting the people, somehow always seems more entertaining and fun when it breaks out in New Jersey, America’s corrupt state.

What those who may complain about All-Christie All-the-time coverage don’t understand is the nature of the toxic mix caused by the confluence of political corruption, abuse of power and real estate development in New Jersey. It’s like the meadows, or what we once knew as “the swamps,” before public-spirited civic improvements such as remediation turned our swamps into the largest corporate mall built on wetlands in Western Civilization.

Why, you can be staring at the new hills and dales, created with garbage as landfill, when nothing seems to be happening, and all of a sudden the methane gas causes the meadows to burst into flame. It’s one of the great natural wonders of the civilized world.

So it is with the Christie story. Something magical is always taking place in the investigation of the GWB scandal story. Just when you think it’s all over, there is smoke, if no fire. I guess the parallel in literature I’m searching for is not so much “Waiting for Godot” as “Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves,” as retold by the Scheherazade of cable news networks, MSNBC.

The magical words are “Open hearings.”

For those who live just for the thrill of seeing our governor, the Hindenburg of state politicians, go down in flames, and are ready to honk if they think he’s guilty, it’s a frustrating time.

The star witness at the Hearing of the Week on Tuesday before the Joint Legislative panel investigating the GWB Scandal — former Christie administration apparatchik Christina Renna, ex-member of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs — was especially disappointing. Renna, who has taken the liberty of getting out of the kitchen when it is hot by resigning, worked with Designated Victim Bridget Kelly in the political outreach operations office whence came the “time for some traffic problems” heads-up, leading to diversion of two local lanes from Fort Lee to the George Washington Bridge.

There was no smoking email. Not even an E-cigarette vaping.

The most startling bit of evidence from inside the trouble-making boiler room: on hearing Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich was upset about the lane diversion, Kelly replied, ‘Good.” And then ordered it deleted. Witness Renna, the first of Christie’s staff to testify directly before the legislative committee getting to the bottom of the scandal, played no role, seeming to position herself as having almost as little to do with the alleged crime as the average person sitting at home watching MSNBC.

Other coming attractions include the debut of Michael Drewniak, administration chief spokesman, May 16. The panel, led by tough cookie State Senator Loretta Weinberg, will later hear from former campaign staffer Matt Mowers, Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye and the inimitable PA board member William “Pat” Schuber. All accompanied by their legal team, of course.

Be sure to set your TiVo’s.

What amazes out-of-staters watching the wheels of justice turn with all due deliberate speed in the “Let’s Make a Deal State,” as I proposed replacing the so-called “Garden State” on license plates, is how everybody is so lawyered up. ‘Every third person in New Jersey seems to have a lawyer,” observed Jim Bouton, a former native now residing in the Berkshires. Why, I wouldn’t dream of writing these pieces without counsel.

The irony is the Governor already has been exonerated of all possible charges in a 377-page report finding the alleged culprit to be of noble character. True, it was by an investigation conducted by his own law firm, which is a lot like having a burglar determine his own guilt.

This did not prevent the governor’s office from having spent $1,077, 785.20 of taxpayer money for legal fees, the amount Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher is charging for the first 19 days of its investigation. One of my neighbors, a lawyer, said he could have done it for half.

The total tab for giving the governor a clean bill of health is expected to reach three million. Co-Chairwoman Weinberg called it a PR job. At least Christie’s law firm stopped short of saying all the charges are unfounded gossip of a malicious or semi-malicious nature.

In the few moments I have left before you return to your smart phones, I want to assure all concerned citizens that the Bridgegate GWB Christie scandal is a story that has legs, as we journalists say. It also has arms and knees that can be broken with a baseball bat, as some members of our diverse communities render justice.

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Marvin Kitman
May 8, 2014

Marvin Kitman is the author of “The Making of the Preƒident 1789.” “George Washington’s Expense Account” by Gen. George Washington and Marvin Kitman PFC (Ret.) was the best-selling expense account in publishing history.