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Chris Christie and a politically motivated traffic disaster

By Scott Tibbs, January 13, 2014

Rachel Maddow was pounding the table about what was then a brewing scandal in New Jersey about a critical bridge being closed, snarling traffic and creating a life-threatening situation had emergency vehicles been needed in another part of the affected town. It was revealed last week that the shutdown was intentional political retribution after the Democratic mayor of that town did not endorse Christie for re-election.

Hats off to Maddow for bringing this story to national prominence two months before it broke wide open last week. Sure, she was driven by ideology and partisanship, but there are cases where that is necessary to bring scandals into the light. She did a public service to both the people of New Jersey and the people of the nation.

When I first saw that it was e-mails that provided the smoking gun, I was shocked that people would be so stupid as to use a public e-mail account to document abuse of power. That was not the case, as the two people at the center of the scandal used Yahoo and Gmail accounts. Perhaps they thought those accounts were safe, but discussing that over e-mail at all is still a stupid thing to do.

(Of course, no such abuse of power should ever be planned or implemented at all, no matter how it is discussed.)

This brings another issue to the table: Government business should only be discussed using official government communications. This is one of the things that got Sarah Palin in trouble back in 2008, when she was using a Yahoo account to conduct state business. The fact that Christie's aides were using private accounts to evade sunshine laws is an abuse of power in and of itself, even if they were not planning anything nefarious.

How does this affect Christie's presidential ambitions? It depends on whether he knew about this ahead of time or not. Someone prone to abusing power like that should not get anywhere near the office of President, because of the terrifying potential for violating people's rights that comes with the immense power of the Presidency. If Christie knew, he is (or at least should be) out of contention for 2016. He is going to have to take drastic measures to improve ethics in New Jersey government, in order to reassure voters he can be trusted with the office of President.