|ANDREW MILLS / NJ ADVANCE MEDIA|
Coming as it does when it does, there is something deeply satisfying in Chris Christie's fall -- no, make that plummet -- from grace. Even in an era when 62 million Americans elected a monster grotesquely incompetent to be president, it is reassuring to know that the good burghers of New Jersey, a state that is equal parts liberal and corrupt, figured out that Christie thought he could sucker them but they are getting the last laugh.
With six months to go in his second and final term as governor, Christie's dreams of becoming president himself after years of tacking unscrupulously to the right, let alone being named to a big-shot position in the Trump administration, have turned to ashes.
Christie has been hard at work trying to improve his image, but Garden State residents are having none of it. His popularity rating had fallen to an astonishing 15 percent before Beachgate, the lowest of any governor anywhere since forever, and it is safe to say that his career in public service, pardoning the term, stands about as much chance of being revived as exotic orchids blooming in one of New Jersey's many Superfund sites.
Beachgate, which it inevitably will be called, is Christie's latest middle-fingered gesture to his constituents.
He provoked widespread ridicule and not a little anger over Independence Day weekend when pictures emerged of him and his family sunning their corpulent selves on a very empty beach at Island Beach State Park, which had been closed on his orders during the holiday weekend because of a state government shutdown provoked by the governator himself.
|ANDREW MILLS / NJ ADVANCE MEDIA|
The plummet has been astonishing for a Republican who was elected and then re-elected by substantial margins in a Democratic state, won plaudits for his handling of Superstorm Sandy and even praise for his F*ck You attitude.
Then people realized that Christie was f*cking them.
The halo over Christie's self righteous Roman Catholic self began fading in 2010 as he almost single-handedly drove the fabulous wealthy state to the verge of bankruptcy while killing a desperately needed $8.7 billion commuter rail tunnel under the Hudson River that virtually everyone else believed would ensure the future health of New York's regional economy.
Christie argued that the tunnel was just too damned expensive for the frugal times in which he governed (not counting himself, of course), an argument that sprung a ginormous leak when it turned out that he planned all along to use New Jersey's share of tunnel construction dough to bail out the state's highway and bridge system, which under his "leadership" had been driven deeply into debt.
Then in May 2011, as the state lurched into the latest of several financial crises -- and was slapped with one of a record seven bond rating downgrades on his watch -- the profligate Christie arrived at his son's high school baseball game in Montvale, Bergen County aboard a spanking new $12.5 million State Police helicopter, which landed at an adjacent football field. Christie disembarked from the helicopter and got into a black state car with tinted windows and was driven about 100 yards to the baseball field. He stayed until the fifth inning when he and wife Mary Pat were driven back to the helicopter. Play was stopped while it took off.
This was about the time Christie's habit of treating public employee unions harshly (school teachers and firefighters were favorite for his tin-earred scorn) while sparing the state's rich from any hardship hoved fully into view.
Then came that other gate -- Bridgegate -- which even by New Jersey standards was an astonishing example of abuse of power and forever branded Christie as a Mephistophelean power monger whose viciousness was unlimited.
To briefly recap, Christie's aides executed a plan to deliberately create an immense traffic jam at the George Washington Bridge, the world's busiest, as a political payback for their boss not being endorsed for re-election by the mayor of the borough of Fort Lee, which is on the New Jersey bridge approach.
The four-day closure of two of the three access lanes from Fort Lee in September 2013 was timed to achieve maximum impact during a week in which public schools opened, Yom Kippur was observed and there were 9/11 attack anniversary events. It succeeded spectacularly, causing massive traffic jams and a public-safety crisis as ambulances and other emergency vehicles were gridlocked for hours.
Two Christie aides will be doing jail time once their trial appeals fail while Christie, the figurative elephant in the courtroom, skated although it is widely believed that the revenge plot had his approval, if he did not in fact initiate it.
As Christie's approval ratings plummeted, he spent all or parts of 261 days in 2015 running for president, further endearing himself to his constituents.
It is easy to forget that in 2015 Christie was the leading candidate for the Republican nomination and Donald Trump was merely a celebrity jerk with an immense ego, but as word about Bridgegate got out, he began a slow but steady descent to the bottom of the presidential pack and into the gutter.
That is where we find Christie today, which is a shame only because the centerpiece of his image-rebuilding efforts is dedicating himself to fighting New Jersey's and the nation's opioid epidemic, which puts him at odds with Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who cruelly intends to reinvigorate the punitive War on Drugs and incarcerate America's way out of the epidemic.
"Politicians are like diapers. They both need to be changed regularly and for the same reasons," retired English teacher Kurt Epps told The Associated Press. But Christie outdid himself and the stink he will leave behind is enormous.