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Let's appreciate the scandal surrounding the braying New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and the problematic bistate Port Authority for what it is — a breed apart from your ordinary skulduggery.
Here you have the unique spectacle of public officials purposely and provably sabotaging the very public operation they were assigned to run. They did this by ordering entrance lanes choked off on 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. How does it even occur to someone entrusted with transportation facilities to stymie the system for no good reason?
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 wails of condemnation would issue forth from the tough-talking grandees of Trenton.
During his apology tour last week, Christie slammed the "indifference" revealed by aides in Conegate. But this was a disruption ordered by insiders bent on sticking it to the public — with "collateral" damage for perceived political enemies.
Notice that this particular 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 to his office the construction projects at its two Queens airports, Kennedy and LaGuardia.
For decades, New York City officials saw the Port Authority as favoring New Jersey, as witnessed by the blooming of Newark Liberty 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 improvements for 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. Maybe what the PA needs is more troublemakers and leakers like Foye.
So far, the facts leave one governor's team looking pretty good on this one, while the other's sits and stews in a hell of a jam of its own making.