Traffic jams around the metro New York City area, even when they occur haphazardly, can be pretty annoying and life-disrupting. That someone — in government service, no less — would intentionally sabotage traffic flow at the entrance to the George Washington Bridge as political payback is almost impossible to believe, but that’s apparently what aides to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie did last September to punish the mayor of Fort Lee for declining to cross-endorse their Republican boss, as many Democrats in the state did.
It’s also pretty hard to believe that Christie, who has a reputation for being a hands-on manager as well as a political bully, had no knowledge of the political dirty trick until Wednesday, when emails between his top aides at the time were made public, clearly implicating them.
Christie, after all, had been asked repeatedly about his administration’s possible involvement in the infamous bridge tie-ups (which went on for several days, delaying school buses, ambulances and hundreds of thousands of commuters) and had repeatedly dismissed any connection.
So now the governor’s only possible explanation is that he had no idea what two of his closest aides (one of them a friend from high school) had cooked up — which is only slightly less bad than if he’d said he was complicit. And his eerily familiar “I am not a bully” defense at Thursday’s press conference didn’t help much.
Time — and a continuing investigation by New Jersey Democrats, as well as a new one announced by the U.S. attorney’s office — may tell whether Christie was as ignorant of the inexcusable goings-on as he insists. It may also tell whether voters — specifically Republicans in the 2016 presidential primaries, where Christie is expected to be a candidate — can overlook this scandal. Even if he’s telling the truth, it’s still quite damning. But if he’s not, he’d probably do himself, and the rest of the world, a favor by resigning immediately.