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In New Jersey, it's always something

The Chris Christie-Bridgegate story has provided no shortage of entertainment for this New Jersey native. Whenever I'm feeling wistful about my roots I can always look back across the river and be reminded of what I left behind, and why. But stories like this also have a way of spinning out separate ones, not necessarily directly related. So, some nonsmoking-gun items that may be of interest. 
The problematic Democratic loyalists: The tangled web of New Jersey politics is teased out at Talking Points Memo, which looks at how favors are traded to play the southern part of the state against the northern and vice versa - and how many of the state's Democrats have actually forged quiet but significant alliances with Christie. While The Sopranos has often been invoked in describing the state's political climate, this report says it's more Game of Thrones.
Local paper makes headlines: The Bergen Record is winning deserved attention not only for how it broke and is covering Bridgegate, but also for its ability to do so. Transportation reporter John Chichowski was the first to look into the lane closures, and investigative reporter Shawn Boberg got the "smoking gun" emails, but that it even has such resources, according to The Washington Post, can be explained in part by family ownership -- which has ensured stability and helped it avoid the massive layoffs and spending cuts that have weakened so many other papers. And it's not just what it reports that's important, adds Steven Waldman at Washington Monthly, but that it's looking into stories in the first place. Just by digging around, Chichowski got the attention of Port Authority officials who still hadn't looked into the lane closures: "This reminds us that accountability reporting works not only because of what is printed but by giving public officials the sense that someone out there is watching." 
Speaking of the Port Authority: Residents and commuters in the New York-New Jersey region might have some sense of how fundamentally dysfunctional the Port Authority is, but the Christie story has shed even more light on the problems with an agency led by political appointees of the governors of the two states sharing oversight. This item being illustrative: Former executive director Guy Tazzolli decades ago bought the naming rights for "World Trade Center" for $10. Until his death in 2013 "he earned millions primarily by licensing the name through the group, the World Trade Centers Association. And the Port Authority is among the hundreds of licensees around the world paying thousands of dollars each year for the privilege of using the words ‘World Trade Center.’” Who broke this story? The Bergen Record
Richard Feder lives: Meanwhile, though the paper of record has turned out some good reporting, its real coup may have been confirming the existence and whereabouts of a Mr. Richard Feder, once of Fort Lee, N.J. The other day The New York Times featured on its front page a story about Roseanne Roseannadanna's favorite correspondent, who turns out not to be a fiction but the brother-in-law of an original Saturday Night Live writer who co-created Gilda Radner's famous Weekend Update segment. Feder moved out but eventually returned to the Garden State -- only to become trapped in the traffic at the bridge one of those September mornings.
You shouldn't go home again.

About the Author

Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s digital editor.



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Re: the Port Authority - I had thought that Chester Arthur might be one of the agency's success stories, but Wikipedia tells me that he was Collector of the Port of New York.  Perhaps the Port Authority is a successor agency?

On his blog, George Vecsey has links to several pieces, one of which has excerpts from an interview with "Fred Sokolich, whose Sokolich Real Estate Enterprises is the No. 1 rental broker in northern N.J."  Sokolich's brother, Mark, is a real estate attorney and, yes, the mayor of Fort Lee.  Here's the link for the post on Vecsey's blog:

I thought one of the more bizarre things about Bridgegate was that one of the guys who went down over it, WIldstein, when he found out that the reporter Shawn Boburg was looking into what happened, Wildstein bought the domain name When you go to that site,you're redirected to a rival news site.

For some reason that seems more twisted to me than any of the political dirty tricks.

As a longtime Record alum, I am very glad to see the paper at the heart of this story -- it's why small and mid-size papers are so crucial to journalism and the functioning of our society.

The Wall Street Journal also did fine work -- yet the NYT did not see fit to acknowledge the Record, in particular. That's the kind of bigfooting one frequently experienced at places like the Bergen Record. But it still infuriates me.

The Times' Public Editor at least nodded toward her paper's failure to give credit where credit was due:

Ken - you appear to reveal your own bias and lack of knowledge.

Benghazi - 60 Minutes and now the NYT has done an in depth and authoritative investigation.  The FOX news dribble about Benghazi as al Queda worldwide conspiracy driven; failure of state department, etc. has been proven completely inaccurate.  The congressional Issa panel is revealed as just another partisan witch hunt.  (has nothing to do with the leftist media)

IRS - again, multiple news organizations; congressional hearings, etc. have shown that this was actually a long standing law and policy that was abused - targets were both democratic and republican.  There was no connection to the executive branch or the presidential staff despite what FOX news makes up.  (AGAIN,  has nothing to do with the leftist media)

NSA - this is an ongoing issue - it isn't left/right except in your mind. 

You left out Fast and Furious....any other Fox News topics you want to throw in?

Please, save us from biased opinions.

Another NJ voice heard from: Bruce Springsteen serenades his governor.

Whatever the aptness of the Benghazi comparison, here is Jonah Goldberg with a few other suggested comparisons:

Feeding-frenzy defenders insist the closure of lanes on the George Washington Bridge is special because innocent constituents were deliberately inconvenienced for partisan purposes. That's surely what makes this scandalous, but it hardly makes it unique. The Obama administration employed similar tactics during the sequester and the government shutdown. Closing the open-air World War II Memorial, furloughing air traffic controllers and other efforts were deliberate attempts to maximize the pain of innocents for political benefit.,0,4240186.column#ixzz2qVdHdjGU




Oh please, really miss what happened.  The tea party forced the Republicans to enact the govt. shutdown and sequester (based upon a biased view of economics).  The shutdown forced your list (not Obama).  Obama would have had to take executive action (if even legal) to keep open or keep employed some of your list.  Talk about getting things upside down.

But, yes, Obama did use that shortsided Tea Party approach to his political advantage - so what?  And this has nothing to do with my reply to Ken and his Fox News list of now discounted Obama administration *mistakes* (or Fox News fantasies).

So, Obama fought against the shutdown; it happened; and now Obama is to blame because he didn't take extraordinary steps to protect the shortsightedness of the Tea really have a distorted view of politics.

Note - republicans seem pretty sure to vote and push through this 1.1 trillion dollar budget to avoid their earlier mistakes and govt. shutdown.

From "Christie and Springsteen: A Tale of Devotion, and a Very Public Snub:"

This is a love story.

And in many great love stories, some will be punished and some will be pardoned. In this tale of woe, though, the punishment was meted out on national television: Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey was scorned, in his hour of need, by the man whose embrace he had so fervently sought and only recently secured.

For the rest of the story:

so what?  

That, in a nutshell, is my reaction to a couple of lanes being closed for a few days on some bridge a thousand miles from here.  I think it's a bigger deal (although, in the grand scheme of things, maybe not that big a deal) that WWII vets' honor flights were cancelled, and that people who saved and planned for a year to vacation in Washington DC weren't permitted to tour the White House.


Ah, yes--the "the farther things are away, the less important they are" approach to politics.

JIm P. =

Aw, c'mon.  I used to think that Christie might be a capable politician who puts the people first and who might be the architect of the revival of the Republican Party,  No more.  The reason Bridgegate isn't just another little local brouhaha is that Christie gives every indication of national ambition -- he's runing for President.  What is important about the scandal is that it has revealed him to be a small-minded, mean hypocrit who pretends to be a friend to man but puts his own ambition above the good of the people, or he at least surrounds himself with people who are ewilling to do such dirt for him.  If the voters have any sense he won't even make it past Iowa.

Ann - if he doesn't make it out of Iowa, I promise you that it won't  be because of lane closures on the George Washington Bridge.

Abe - "the farther things are away, the less important they are" - that's actually pretty close to Secretary of State Clinton's post-Benghazi Senate testimony.

Whatever, Jim. It seems to me that Benghazi and related issues are wholly irrelevant, and I do not know why you are bringing them up, apart from poor rhetorical strategy.

Is that the bar we're setting: anything not as bad as Benghazi is therefore ok?  

Jim P. ==

True, mere road closings in New Jersey won't eliminate Christie in the Iowa primary.  But unless the Democrats put up even worse excuses as candidates, Christie's having shown himself to be a small-minded, mean hypocrit who only pretends to be a friend to man will eliminate him.  Yes, Americans easily tolerate liars and sometimes even thieves, but we seem to despise hypocritical holier-than-thous.

I think we voters don't like mean people, at least in national elections.

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