Many–if not most–of those following the unfolding drama surrounding New Jersey Governor Chris Christie are having a hard time making heads or tails of the reason behind the act. Rachel Maddow is one of them, presenting a convoluted theory involving the NJ Supreme Court that the left is adopting in full-throated fashion.
The understood reasoning behind the closure of the George Washington Bridge in September for a “traffic study,” which emails revealed was actually political retribution, was that Gov. Christie’s staff wanted to punish Fort Lee, NJ, Mayor Mark Sokolich for not endorsing their man. Sokolich doesn’t remember having been asked for his endorsement, and Gov. Christie does not remember anyone on his staff telling him to ask for it. Christie even joked that he could not pick Sokolich “out of a lineup.” The two seem to have made up last night upon Christie’s visit to the northern NJ town, and some hours later, Rachel Maddow presented her theory for why Sokolich seemed so unfamiliar to Christie: because, she contends, he was never meant to be the target of the retribution.
Maddow presented a theory that involved a much greater conspiracy to damage the career and reputation of the Democrats’ State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg. Weinberg’s district includes Fort Lee. After several minutes explaining that she saw something nefarious in Christie’s admission that he wanted to win re-election by as much as possible, Maddow dropped that line of interrogation and turned to the state Supreme Court.
The theory goes that Christie stoked the ire of Democrats by refusing to give Supreme Court Justice John Wallace–the only black justice on the bench–a lifetime appointment. This was unprecedented in the history of the state, and in retaliation, Senate Democrats refused to confirm any of Christie’s appointments for Wallace’s seat. When a close friend of his on the Supreme Court had to sit for Senate confirmation hearings to get her lifetime seat, the Senate Democrats threatened a hearing that would destroy her reputation. To protect her from what Christie called the “animals” in the Senate, he refused to nominate her, too.
The day after, Bridget Kelly gave the order to cause traffic problems in Fort Lee.
It’s a tempting theory in that it involves a much greater issue than an endorsement for an uncompetitive election and provides just a subtle hint that Gov. Christie is racist. It’s difficult to see an opening in this scandal to accuse Christie of racism (except for the “little Serbian” emails about Croatian Mark Sokolich), but leave it to Maddow to find a way. Liberals are embracing the theory for its originality and depth of specificity. Lawrence O’Donnell called the theory “intriguing” and “brilliantly” delivered. David Sirota praised Maddow’s “excellent reporting.” Goldie Taylor was one step away from calling for full resignation on Christie’s part.
The enthusiasm for this theory makes it seem like the Supreme Court disputes were the daily top story in the state of New Jersey all year, and that Christie has somehow not made enemies with Democrats on much else. It also paints Christie as having a bad relationship with Senate Democrats, and that is simply not true. Christie even acquired the endorsement of prominent Senate Democrat Brian Stack, who also serves as mayor of Union City, host city to Christie’s Election Eve and signing of the New Jersey DREAM Act. Should anyone accuse Christie of having a bad relationship with Northeast NJ, it should be noted that Stack’s district is about six miles from Weinberg’s.
Maddow’s theory also leaves another major loose end: Mark Sokolich has absolutely no place in the retribution, thus making every email referring to “Serbia” and “the little Serbian” absolutely nonsensical. It also ignores the roles of a number of big-name Democrats with whom Christie was, at the time, more obviously incensed, particularly State Senator Ray Lesniak, who has called Christie “hideous” and “unhealthy.”
Yes, the official explanation of proceedings feels incomplete and unsatisfying. Yes, Governor Christie has made more than a few enemies during his tenure. But Maddow’s theory, so eagerly embraced by those looking for an answer that makes Christie look even worse, is simply a bridge too far (pun very intended). We may very well see the new document dump today produce something new that would tie Weinberg to the story with more than an email timestamp, and Maddow may prove to be prescient. But right now, she is teetering a little too close to the tin foil hat side of the political spectrum on this story.
Watch Maddow’s explanation on MSNBC last night below, and decide for yourself: