A short piece simply to express sadness and a rage about this email, sent by David Wildstein—Chris Christie’s man at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey—to Bill Stepien, an aide to Christie who become his re-election campaign manager and is now field director for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. This was sent on September 8, 2012—four years before Christie made his run for president:
“Just to be clear—at some point hundreds of flags flown over the World Trade Center will find their way to VFWs all throughout Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.”
Wildstein sent it just weeks after he was awarded a $150,000year job at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey by Christie. Supposedly, he was the director of
interstate capital projects, a job and a title the governor made just for him. His real job was to use Port Authority assets to help Christie be elected by a large enough margin to position him as a strong presidential candidate in 2016.
The email came into evidence Friday in the trial of two Christie aides charged in the Bridgegate scandal. Wildstein was facing cross-examination and, while he held up well against sharp attacks by defense attorney Michael Critchley, the questioning continued to reveal new examples of Christie Administration cynicism.
The email to Stepien three days before the 11th anniversary of the worst civilian slaughter in American history shows Wildstein is thinking about how the horror can be exploited for the political benefit of his boss, a man who, at that point, had been New Jersey governor for only two years. He had been elected to his first term with less than 50 percent of the vote. Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, of course, are the first states to hold political nominating contests in presidential election years. But Christie wanted to give those American flags to people who would think of him as some sort of hero on 9/11.
No piece of evidence that has so far emerged from the Bridgegate trial captures more dramatically the cynicism that has pervaded the Christie regime since it took office in January, 2010.
This writer covered the 9/11 tragedy and came to know hundreds of persons who lost children, spouses, parents, brothers, and sisters. This writer covered efforts by some families to have their loved ones’ remains treated with respect and not dumped in a junk pile. This writer covered the courageous efforts of Kristen Breitweiser, Mindy Kleinberg, Lorie Van Auken, Patty Cassaza, and Monica Gabrielle—the 9/11 Advocates—to force a national study of how 9/11 happened. These same women recently forced the first veto override of President Barack Obama’s tenure–veto of a bill allowing law suits against Saudi Arabia. This writer is still in touch with 9/11 families and knows how badly they are injured every time some cynical political or commercial use is made of their sorrow.
But, for Christie and supporters like Wildstein–the aide testified Friday he was “committed to advancing Chris Christie’s political future.”
I am not a flag waver. I am not a chauvinist. Those who read my blogs would never accuse me of that.
But the idea that New Jersey officials mechanically raised and lowered flags over this hallowed ground simply to create baubles to be used for the purpose of helping Christie’s presidential ambitions is an insult to those flags, an insult to the memory of those who died, and an insult to all of us. Sacrilege is a word that seems to fit here.
The chronic exploitation by Christie of this tragedy—don’t forget he said in a primary debate that he was a federal prosecutor at the time of the 9/11 attacks and he wasn’t—is just flatly unforgiveable.
The man should resign in shame and hide his face behind the door of his home in Mendham.
(An earlier version of this article dated the communication between Stepien and Wildstein as 2011. I regret and apologize for the error).