N.J. bridge scandal a cut above the rest
Let's appreciate the scandal surrounding New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and the bi-state Port Authority for what it is -- a breed apart from your ordinary political skulduggery.
Here you have public officials deliberately sabotaging the public operation they were assigned to run. They did this by ordering entrance lanes choked off to the famously congested George Washington Bridge.
Crimes against commuters suggest a civic depravity that the sex and money scandals of recent years don't quite match.
Imagine if anti-Christie demonstrators paralyzed emergency and passenger vehicles for hours, let alone days, as these officials did. They could expect to be arrested, and condemned by the grandees of Trenton.
During his apology tour last week, Christie slammed the "indifference" revealed by aides in Cone-gate. But this was a disruption ordered by insiders bent on sticking it to the public -- with "collateral" damage for perceived political enemies.
The scandal is rocking only the Jersey side of the Port Authority's domain.
By midweek, as new documents brought blame closer to Christie, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo stood in Albany to deliver his fourth State of the State message. Cuomo happened to have already embedded into his election-year agenda a call for the Port Authority to cede control of construction projects at its two Queens airports, Kennedy and LaGuardia, to his office.
For decades, New York City officials saw the Port Authority as favoring New Jersey, as witnessed by the blooming of Newark Liberty International Airport while Queens airports lagged. Projects in Queens, included in authority budgets, have moved along slowly. The moment appears strategically perfect for Cuomo to seize "ownership."
Sources say the Port Authority was ready to meet Cuomo's request before last week's revelations. Now, it's especially hard to picture the New Jersey side of the agency defying Cuomo on anything. Top projects include a new LaGuardia Central Terminal building along with improving Kennedy's cargo facilities.
Giving New York and Cuomo even more of a moral edge were documents showing Port Authority chairman David Samson, a Christie appointee, to be more interested in tagging executive director Patrick Foye, a Cuomo appointee, as a leaker and troublemaker than in actually stopping the insider sabotage -- as Foye seems to have done.
So far, the affair leaves one governor's team looking pretty good while the other sits in a huge jam of its own making.