I’ve lately heard from a couple of fellow progressives who have complained bout MSNBC spending “so much time” talking about the Chris Christie bridge scandal. One of these was Bill Maher, who said he was “breaking up” with MSNBC, and said,. “Bridgegate has become [MSNBC’s] Benghazi. ” A local friend of mine, who has spent several hours with me laughing about the stupidity of conservatives, also said he is tired of it.
In both these instances, the feeling seems to be that, “yeah, something happened here”, but now that we know about it, Christie is toast, and to continue talking about it is to be just like Fox News, hyping something that isn’t that big of a deal just because something happened to a person you don’t ideologically like. That we as progressives, and MSNBC as a station, are just reveling too much in schadenfreude.
OK, um, let’s back up a bit here.
First off, liberals and progressives all the time talk about false equivalencies. An example of the false equivalency is saying that “both sides” refuses to talk to each other seriously about policy, and that Obama needs to “lead” more. This is just factually false. A key example of this is election night 2012, where Obama called the leaders of the House (John Boehner) and the minority leader of the Senate (Mitch McConnell), but they refused to take his call because they were “asleep”. Now, keep in mind that every presidential election the winner tends to all all 4 leaders (majority and minority) of the two houses. No president ever was ignored by the leader because they were “tired” or whatever. Everybody knows this call is coming. If Nancy Pelosi refused a call from Dubya, Fox News’ head would have exploded (actually, that would have been kind of cool to see on live TV). But again, since Republicans say that Obama isn’t reaching out, it’s just accepted that he must not reach out. False equivalency.
So, anyway, liberals have lots of reasons to point out the false equivalency. So it is especially troublesome to see them do the exact… same… thing… No, the GW bridge scandal is absolutely not Fast and Furious… or Benghazi… or Obama’s friggn’ birth certificate. First off, those “scandals” had several hearings. And about 2 minutes into each one of the hearings, it was clear that the narrative Fox and conservatives were trying to portray about the issue was completely wrong. And there were also massive instances of conservative selective document leaking. So much so that his committee ends up releasing more documents just to shut him up. Secondly, none of these hearings have ever found anything, yet Fox News still talks about it. Contrast this to Bridgegate, where there has yet to be any federal hearing, though there is a possibility this could happen since the Port Authority is an multi-state organization chartered by the federal government and subject to federal oversight. And the state hearings just started, and no testimony has been given. The subpoenas for documents have resulted in assertions of the 5th Amendment, none of which happened in any of the ginned up conservative controversies.
Additionally, the few bits of things that have come out have been simply amazing and are taking the investigation in entirely new directions. For example, most recently it has been found out that David Sampson, a key player in the bridge controversy and chairman of the Port Authority, and also a VERY close friend of Chris Christie’s, was also a consultant for a company that leased a parking lot from the Port Authority. They paid his law firm over $2M, and then Sampson, as chairman of the Port Authority, pushed through a change in rent for the parking lot from $900K per year to… $1. He didn’t recuse himself. He didn’t disclose his conflict of interest. He promoted the idea.
The point of this is that there is no equivalency. For one, the hearings have just started whereas the fake conservative scandals had multiple hearings. Secondly, there seems to be something going on, we just don’t know what, given all the claims on the 5th Amendment. Nothing like this happened with any of the fake conservative hearings. Third, every instance of something happening with Bridgegate have happened with people that Chris Christie is personally close to, as opposed to, say, the fake IRS scandal, which never even reached the White House offices, let alone Obama (and keep in mind, the outrage was fake to begin with, as liberal groups were also targeted in that case).
So, let’s just stop the false equivalency, fellow progressives. There is something here. It might not get to Christie, but you know, it took about 2 years for Watergate to get fully exposed – the break in occurred in 1972, Nixon resigned in 1974. I’m not equating Bridgegate to Watergate, but what I’m saying is that real investigations take quite a bit of time, even in the digital age. The investigation into the GW bridge scandal is only about 2 months old. Additionally, while MSNBC might be talking about it a lot, the reach of MSNBC is nothing like the reach of the Washington Post or the New York Times in 1972-1974. MSNBC gets about 300,000 viewers a night. From what I can find, it appears the Washington Post had a readership well over 1 million people per day in 1972.
What I would instead ask my fellow progressives to look at with all this false equivalency nonsense is… are you sure this isn’t the actual intent of conservatives? Think about it – if the right gins up 10 fake controversies on Obama, such that the general public starts to roll its eyes at the silliness of it, is the general public going to be more likely or less likely to believe a real controversy, whether it is from the right or the left? How do we really know if it is real vs. yet another fake one – a crying wolf thing? We’ve seen how Machiavellian conservatives can be. I’m not calling it a conspiracy – a conspiracy involves being secretive. And there is nothing about the attacks on Obama that are secretive. But I tend to think this whole attacking of Obama over ridiculous stuff is on purpose. To put it another way, the Independent Counsel Statue arose during Watergate, as it was clear that the Justice Department, and Congress, wasn’t necessarily able to do its job to oversee wrongdoings in the White House. This statute got horribly abused by Republicans in the 1990s, causing an initial failed land deal in Arkansas to shift over into looking at the Vince Foster suicide and every other nonsense Clinton “scandal”, until eventually they “got him” for having sex with an intern. Everybody was so disgusted with the IC that we let the statue expire. And what happened after that? Secret meetings in the White House with energy executives, a complete failure on 9/11, memos being passed to and fro OK-ing torture, and secret wire taps of Americans illegally. Do you think an truly independent prosecutor would have sniffed that stuff out? I do. But hey, it wasn’t there. Point is, I’m not sure getting rid of the Independent Counsel was an “oops” thing. I think conservatives really hoped this would happen and were willing to impeach a president over a semen stain if that’s what it meant to make it happen.
OK, having said all of that, let me point out another issue I think is important related to Bridgegate, and why I don’t think we should just “let it go”. For this example, I would like you to look at one George Dubya Bush. In the 1970s when he first ran for Congress, his opponent, very briefly, attacked Dubya’s service in the National Guard. Everybody knew that unit of the Guard was a joke – it is where the children of the rich and powerful, as well as people like star players for the Dallas Cowboys, served so that they would not have to go to Vietnam. (It was called the Champagne Unit). And it looked like Bush didn’t even fulfill the obligations for that. It looked like Bush just ignored times of service so he could campaign for a conservative in Alabama.
Now, this charge never went anywhere, because Bush lost the seat. No investigation was done. Democrats raised the issue in 2004 during the Presidential election, and Bush and his cronies whined, saying this was all propaganda, that the whole thing was “looked into” and that there was nothing there. They basically charged the Democrats with being desperate.
But… here’s the thing. It wasn’t looked into. It was a throwaway charge that kind of hung around, but nobody every looked at it. It wasn’t investigated and nothing was discovered. It was hardly looked at. Similar things happened with Bush around his DUI arrest records in Maine. Nothing was really investigated when it happened, and Bush later used that to claim the whole thing was nonsense and we should move on.
How does this relate to Bridgegate? Well, Christie tried to do the same thing. The lanes on the GW bridge were closed in September. There was grumbling about it at the time, but no investigation had been launched. It was, basically, a throw-away editorial in a small New Jersey paper. When it bubbled back up to the surface in November, Christie joked about it, calling the people looking into it “people with nothing better to do”, where he had many better things to do.
Now, of course, we know that some major things happened there. Because the press didn’t let it go (specifically MSNBC), we now have an actual investigation. We have 5th Amendment claims flying around like leaves blowing around on a windy fall day. We have documents showing major scumminess originating from the Governor’s Office itself. We have people being fired. In short, we have big things going on.
So, we should just let that go? If we do, how is that a good thing? Couldn’t Christie just continue to stonewall it? And if he does, in two years, couldn’t he come out and call people talking about it “desperate”? Yeah, actually, he could.
So, again, the idea that we should just lay off this, that MSNBC should just talk about something else, is just silly. It’s what conservatives want MSNBC to do. What you actually have right now, I would argue, is the equivalent of a Scooby Doo episode, where old man Johnson is trying to get away with scaring off local residents, except for those “pesky kids” of MSNBC not letting him get away with it.
So, in conclusion, fellow liberals and progressives, and people who just don’t want to talk about politics… Bridgegate is not Benghazi. There is something here. It affects people who could be the leaders of our country as future presidents. It matters. It is not something MSNBC should just stop talking about. Don’t be conned into thinking it is.