During the Lewinsky scandal, our nation's brave pundits spent a good amount of time fluttering their hands in front of their faces and expressing dismay that they had to spend so much time talking about something so lurid. The truth was that they loved it like a labrador loves liverwurst, but some scandals are just more fun than others. Does it concern a lot of dull policy arcana, or something a little more human? Is there room for lots of speculation about people's motivations? Are there interesting characters—your Gordon Liddys, your Linda Tripps—to liven up the proceedings? These are the things that make a scandal.
We haven't yet met the people at the heart of the Chris Christie George Washington Bridge scandal, but since they're people in New Jersey politics, I'm guessing that if we ever get them in front of the cameras, a new media star or two would be born. And what I find glorious about this story is that the action in question had no practical purpose whatsoever. It didn't enrich anyone or give anyone an unfair political advantage. It was just for spite. Members of the Christie administration, it now appears, created monumental traffic tie-ups in the town of Fort Lee, which abuts the G.W. Bridge, simply because the mayor, a Democrat, didn't endorse Christie in an election he would win by 22 points.
We now have some fabulous emails and texts, including the smokingest of smoking guns, where a top Christie aide emailed a Port Authority official and said, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," to which he replied, "Got it," and it was made so. If it sounds like something out of an episode of "The Sopranos," that isn't just because it takes place in New Jersey. The only danger I see is the possibility that the cat has been let out of the bag too soon, and there won't be even more juicy revelations to come. But we can hope.
In all likelihood, Governor Christie will say that he knew nothing of these nefarious doings, and nobody's angrier about it than he is. Anyone whose name is on an incriminating email will be shown the door forthwith, having so brazenly subverted the tradition of integrity in public service for which the state has long been known. It may well be that Christie knew nothing about it; after all, he isn't an idiot, and only an idiot would think screwing over a small-town mayor in so public a fashion, just before an election you're going to win in a walk, would be a good idea.
But it does present a problem for him, because it's the kind of scandal you'd dream up if you wanted to undermine the Christie '16 bid. As Ezra Klein reminds us, Chris Christie doesn't just have a reputation for being a bully, he's actually a bully. And it would take a bully to say to a town of 35,000 people, "Your mayor didn't endorse me? Well see how you like it when it takes you two hours to get over the Bridge, you worms."
But what we need is to get everybody involved under oath, so we can get to know them and hear their stories. Maybe give them immunity; that's what Congress did with Oliver North, and his testimony was riveting. Benghazi? Boring. IRS? Snoozeville. This is a scandal that could offer some real entertainment.
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