In Defense of Christie Whitman

The following appeared June 28th in The Record

The spirit of patriotism and commitment to rebuilding New York City and restoring confidence in our nation in the wake of 9/11 has been replaced by destructive political grand standing and a trial lawyer’s feeding frenzy. The latest victim in this circus of irresponsibility is Christie Todd Whitman. I have been a vocal critic of Governor Whitman’s policies in New Jersey, but I have a newfound respect in her courage and integrity in standing her ground in defense of her actions as EPA Director. The hearings held by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and exasperated by Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D- NJ) are nothing short of partisan witch hunts designed to destroy the Republican leaders who were confronted by the cataclysmic occurrence of 9/11 and further perpetuate the long line of lawsuits promulgated by greedy trial lawyers. Certainly, there are those 9/11 workers and volunteers who suffered consequences of their work at Ground Zero and they deserve compensation. There are also a slew of those who will find any reason to sue whoever they can because they will claim some respiratory ailment was due to their breathing toxic dust.

Christie Whitman did not tell workers at Ground Zero that it was safe to breathe the air at the site. They were told to wear respirators. I ran a cabinet manufacturing business for twenty years and workers in the shop were required to wear respirators in the spray room and when sanding. Despite numerous signs on the walls, having them sign papers assuring they would wear the masks and constant monitoring, they still took off their masks whenever they felt uncomfortable, which was almost all the time. To think things at Ground Zero were any different is nonsense. In the passion of the moment, workers were scrambling to recover trapped victims or their remains. No one was thinking of patrolling the site forcing workers to wear their masks. Not Jerry Nadler, not Bill Pascrell, nor any of the hundreds of news crews or grandstanding politicians. Remember the hundreds of volunteers who gathered from across the country to be part of the effort? Any attempt to slow them down by talking about “toxic dust” would have done nothing to stop their work.

There was no handbook on how to cope with the total destruction of two of the tallest office buildings in the world by terrorists armed with 747 jets loaded with innocent Americans. There is now; and it is written through the trial by fire experience of those called on to lead, Christie Whitman among them. America was confronted with a destructive evil never before experienced on our soil. Those responsible for making battlefield decisions were forced to do so with little or no information.

Governor Whitman had no motive to mislead anyone about the Ground Zero conditions or withhold information that would aid in protecting workers. The hearing committee should explain what they suspect her motive could have been. They appear to be intent on turning the EPA’s efforts into a crime. So what could the motive possibly have been? Putting America back together? Assuring New Yorkers we could recover and move ahead, undaunted by the attack of terrorists who hate Americans?

The motive of the committee is far more apparent—to destroy the reputation of those who rose to the challenge while the terrorists sit back and laugh. Republican leaders, especially those who benefited under the Whitman Administration, should have the guts to stand up and defend our former governor. America should focus on the success of the unified effort in the handling of the 9/11 disaster and derive whatever lessons we can from our tragic experience. Time will prove the actions of Christie Whitman to be appropriate, but in the eyes of the world, America’s image has been tarnished.

Steve Lonegan is the Mayor of Bogota, NJ, and Executive Director of Americans for Prosperity – New Jersey. Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFP Foundation) are committed to educating citizens about economic policy and mobilizing those citizens as advocates in the public policy process. He is a prolific writer, having been published in newspapers and blogs. He currently has a book in pre-publication on the impact of New Jersey state government on the well being of the taxpayers of the state, where he offers solid and workable solutions. In Defense of Christie Whitman