Opinion: Christie takes on traffic scandal like true leader

Jennifer Hutchinson

It has been a tumultuous couple of weeks for Gov. Chris Christie as more information about the George Washington Bridge scandal has emerged. This all began in September when two lanes of the George Washington Bridge were closed, turning Fort Lee, N. J., into a major four-day traffic jam. Emails and text messages revealed that top Christie officials were responsible for the closings. 

Many believe the theory behind the whole debacle was to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for not endorsing Christie for re-election. The investigation that followed this event uncovered emails and text messages between Christie’s deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, along with other Christie aides, and Port Authority official David Wildstein. 

Correspondences between the two, as published by the New York Daily News, began Aug. 13, 2013, with a message from Kelley to Wildstein stating, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Wildstein later responded to Kelley on Sept. 10 saying, “The New York side gave Fort Lee back all three lanes this morning. We are appropriately going nuts. [Port Authority Chairman David] Samson helping us to retaliate.” 

What was to follow was complete madness with delayed emergency vehicles and school buses, not to mention furious commuters. Once this plan was unraveled, the public scrutiny was intense. However, the anger and disappointment Christie displayed toward his staff might have been even worse. There is no proof that Chris Christie was involved in the scandal. In addition, he continues to deny that he had any knowledge of the events and says that his staff is to blame. 

On Jan. 9, Christie held a news conference to clear his name, discuss the actions he is taking, and to, overall, apologize to the public. As reported by The Washington Post, Christie began the conference by saying, “I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team.” He went on to explain the actions he was taking by saying, “This morning, I’ve terminated the employment of Bridget Kelley effective immediately. I’ve terminated her employment because she lied to me.” 

He also said, “I was disturbed by the behavior and attitude of callous indifference that was displayed in the emails by my former campaign manager, Bill Stepien … As a result, I’ve instructed Bill to not place his name in nomination for State Party Chairman, and he will not be considered for State Party Chairman, and I’ve instructed him to withdraw his consultancy with the Republican Governors Association.” 

Finally, Christie ended the conference with an admirable and heartfelt apology, stating, “Ultimately, I am responsible for what happens under my watch, the good and the bad. And when mistakes are made, then I have to own up to them and take the action that I believe is necessary in order to remediate them.”

Even with all the facts out on the table, my opinion of Christie has not changed. If anything, it has only strengthened my belief in him as a potential presidential candidate. The way Christie has handled this whole ordeal has been both commendable and dignified; he took the appropriate actions to help rectify this situation and did what was in the best interest of his citizens. Even without having anything to do with the situation, he did not make excuses for himself or his staff, but, more respectably, he faced the problem head on. 

He displayed that when his team fails to meet the expectations of the public there are consequences. Which is more than I can say for Christie’s Democratic counterparts. For example, where was Kathleen Sebelius’ termination letter when her healthcare website bombed during its first week of debut? Also, I would like to point out the imbalance of scrutiny between this case and others of this year. There has been more hype and media disdain about a traffic jam than there was for discrimination by the IRS, not to mention four dead Americans in Benghazi. While people in this case need to be held accountable and further action needs to be taken, people need to remember that this was simply a traffic jam and keep things in perspective.

Jennifer Hutchinson is a freshman Political Science major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].