BRIDGEGATE–the sacrilege of Chris Christie

Tom Franklin (The Record) took this iconic picture of a REAL flag raising over Ground Zero
Tom Franklin (The Record) took this iconic picture of a REAL flag raising over Ground Zero


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.

He wasn’t.

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).

  1. I’m thankful that Bob Braun manages not only to find words but to find the right words to write about the Bridgegate trial. Personally, as all of my worst suspicions about the Christie administration are confirmed, (or even surpassed when it comes to things like Wildstein’s cited email), I find myself speechless. So thank you Bob for continuing to shed light on what needs to be written and talked about. I signed a petition to move for Christie’s impeachment this morning. Please do the same.

  2. More power – and the hard-sought gift of peace – to every 9/11 family, and to their vivid living memories.

    Our inborn valor – among a culture’s most precious, bedrock, and diffuse resources – deserves (and moreover, it commands) the honor, the dignity, and the emotional closure that follows a complete and proper accounting of a loved one’s violent and sudden passing. How can we discount this essential requirement for honoring the memory of lives lost to the world’s roiling crucible of relentless human sacrifice?

    The record of our battles and struggles, as a multi-ethnic people and as a nation, is sacred and not to be screwed with. Not ever. But it happens all of the time, like it’s nothing.

    Our nation’s grief hangs heavy to this day, diluted, redacted, and incomplete. Much of it to our shared peril and also to our detriment.

    Full recognition and acceptance, by each of us, in our own way and to whatever degree we are humanly able, is elemental to any hope of redeeming the incomprehensible loss of life that flashed on Tuesday, 11 September, 2001, and all of the lives which were then added to the pyre in the years that followed. Never to be trivialized (and yet, it is), the combined weight of the collective record is borne most heavily by a tiny minority of people whom we are honor bound to hear, and who, in turn, need to be certain their history is accurately told and available. Not everyone will participate.

    The burden of keeping an honest chronicle is ours to bear as a nation, like it or not, because the unadulterated truth is a balm to all who feel compelled in knowing the full nature of this mushrooming catastrophe. To hinder this telling is to refuse, by that much, our claim, as Americans, to being leaders within the free and civilized world.

    The legitimacy of “official” state secrets can and will be deliberately corrupted. By these same craven means, so too is the sanctity of our remembrance. Tragically, so too, are we.

    Always faithful. Never untrue. Equal to or stronger than our terror.

    Let the official record grow to reflect the truth – the whole truth – and to affirm the full story of who we are, what we are, and how we came to be. Sanitizing the accounting is its own form of infection. Are we that fragile?

    So fragile, that we’ll fall prey to an endless procession of counterfeit “one and only” types? Ass hat populists and closet corporatists who serially emerge to promise deliverance from the same deprivation, death, disease, and public health crises that they themselves are party to perpetuating?

    Americans do need to get the hell back to work. And we all need to be paid, from the bottom up, with something more than a tail-chasing dollar on a long rubber band. Real life beckons. This contemptible Republican circus is abominable on its face. Plenty of shame here for you, too, (NJ) Democrats. Could voters dare hope you’ll feel it in any productive way?

    Anyone who came close to Christie knows the measure of the man. Same for that other deadly Republican confection: the gambler, the rainmaker, the chiseling con man, Donald J. Trump.

    So, that’s HOW MANY pairs of tightly zipped lips? All wandering the halls of New Jersey power and privilege, all playing an insider’s game. While you’re busy cutting yourselves all that slack, people (if you feel you still qualify for the title), mind you don’t trip too hard, stumble, and gag on a bolus lump of foie gras.

    And, please (not that you’ll hear me), don’t think of circling up those wagons. You’re supposed to keep, serve, and protect the interests of real people, just like us – however beneath the false dignity of your lying, serpentine vision of USA Incorporated you judge us to be. Naive advice, I know, because that’s one part of the pact that you clearly prefer to conveniently, selectively, and aggressively forsake and forget.

    Your tired BS won’t wash (you’re surprised at that?), but it sure as shite rolls down hill and piles up. You’re dancing with devils of your own creation, who you allowed to accrue too much power, by way of insanity inducing piles of untraceable wealth. Wealth that’s now a regular slinky visitor to your back door, and you like it. Now they own you outright, while you’re vain enough to think they alone (like they tell you) hold the keys to the future viability of a population you routinely betray. You are now their chumps. They love that.

    Enough. You’re killing us. Damn you for not caring any more than this.

    Damn you twice for making others pay the costs of your own ethical collapse.

    Damn you for not speaking out against it. That’s your job. The public trust.

    The money won’t save you. You try and clean up nice, but your core is long gone.

    If the shoe fits, you should sit down, cook it, and then eat it. Over, and over, and over. Until you get the big picture. One way or another, it’s coming.

    There will be no hiding from the hell you made.

    You suck.

    Thanks for listening.

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