Fight of the Week: Atlantic City versus Fort Lee

The Combatants

Fort Lee – Anywhere with screaming cliff hawks has the potential – like an Edgar Allan Poe short story – to haunt somebody’s – anybody’s – conscience. In this case, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz (D-Fl) and some NJ Dems wanted to torture Gov. Chris Christie with the memory of one year ago and the infamous lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. Throwing any number of Ninja stars in Christie’s presidential path, they started with invocations of profound disgust in the vicinity of the GWB.

Atlantic City – Having shelved the Cantinflas routine after the flight home from Mexico, Christie immediately went into sleeves-rolled-up boardroom mode in the besieged South State gaming capital. Revel: done; Showboat: done; Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino: done; other casinos at the brink. But Christie, sandwiching a landing on the boardwalk between Mexico and Springfield, Illinois (the Land of Lincoln), radiated “too busy at work to pay attention to the anniversary of anything” optics.    


The Dynamics 

So it’s the one year anniversary of the mess that became known as the Fort Lee fiasco. Faced with all manner of regurgitation of his record and reminders of ongoing investigations, Christie had the challenge of what to do with his calendar: should he keep lurching around the country in his role as Republican Governors’ Association (RGA) chair, thereby giving Dems a chance to put some torque on their punches with the added complaint that he doesn’t even govern anymore; or does he order the black sedans with government plates in for a landing at the scene of arguably the state’s worst crisis right now, and feverishly set about looking busy with the people’s bidness? This was an easy one. Christie commanded his forces south, away from the unsolved scene of the Northern crime.

In that great chasm of cultural lunar modulation otherwise known as New Jersey, Wasserman Schultz looked scandalized, and Christie looked concerned in a politics standoff worthy of Asterix and Obelix, as each attempted to parry the insistent public efforts of the other with the real story. Along the way, Christie reversed his earlier veto of a bill accomplishing the same thing when he boldly allowed casinos and racetracks to operate sports pools “without fear of criminal or civil liability.” The announcement was big news, flooding the airwaves with fresh material and drowning Wasserman Schultz and company in a cacophony of unresolved yesterdays. That appeared to be the Republican’s strategy, in any case.


The Outcome

Partisan politicians from Washington – a Congressperson no less – these are the people whom polls tell us are less popular than head lice – shaking their fingers at their opponents hardly accomplishes anything other than handing Christie a win and buying him a day – but just a day. The investigations go on, including one by the U.S. Attorney’s Office into allegations by Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer that Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagano threatened to withhold Hurricane Sandy funds unless the Planning Board backed a politically connected local development project. And – once all the cameras and press conference paraphernalia folds, Atlantic City goes on, battered and limping into its as-yet unknown fate, with Christie proclaiming nothing new on a specific plan of action following a closed and bolted door session, only that “everything is on the table.”  In short, one day does not negate a disaster.

Fight of the Week: Atlantic City versus Fort Lee