Yesterday I had lunch over at my parents’ house, mostly to commune with their dog. My father was watching CNN. They were reporting on the recent revelations that some official in the Christie administration seems to have induced the Port Authority (which has jurisdiction over the George Washington Bridge between Manhattan and New Jersey) to close several lanes of east-bound traffic back in September. The result, as anyone who’s ever driven across that bridge can understand, was utter chaos on the New Jersey end of the bridge. Massive traffic jams for three days.
It seems the lane closures had nothing at all to do with any operational or maintenance requirements of the bridge. Rather, it appears that the closures were politically motivated and were intended to cause exactly what they did cause. E-mails and text messages have come to light that show this. Some of those e-mails and messages, which dealt with official government business, went out over private e-mail accounts and cell phones, which is a no-no. It’s such a no-no, in fact, that Lisa Jackson, the former head of Dear Leader’s EPA, felt obliged to set up an entirely fictitious e-mail persona under the surname “Windsor” to conduct official business that she wanted to screen from Freedom of Information Act requests. Several of her underlings did the same thing and for the same reason. All highly, highly illegal under federal law.
A few days ago the assertion was made that Chris Christie as governor approved of or at least knew back in September, at the time, what was being done and why. Yesterday he holds a press conference, nearly an hour and a half long, in which he announced that no, he had no knowledge at the time, and not only that, but he’d been mislead by his senior staff about the status and revelations coming to light in the New Jersey after-the-fact investigation. He’s already fired his deputy chief of staff who, he says, lied to his face about matters. Other heads either have rolled or are in the process of rolling. Christie’s line was much like Reagan’s after the Beirut bombing: It happened on my watch; I’m responsible. I am in the process of holding accountable those who have done wrong.
You’d think that would be about the long and short of the matter. The point has already been made that shutting down lanes of traffic to cause massive traffic snarls as an act of political revenge is remarkably similar to shutting down national parks as an act of political retaliation.
I mentioned that CNN was covering this “story.” What I didn’t mention is that’s all they were covering, during the whole 45 minutes or so I was at my folks’ house. As in: They talked about nothing else. They dragged Congressmen out, they had lawyers on there talking about potential criminal prosecution of . . . whom? They had video of some shmuck at a legislative hearing pleading his Fifth Amendment privilege repeatedly. On and on it went.
The contrast was too great. I wondered how much time CNN had devoted to this non-story (unless you’re one of the people who actually got caught in the traffic jams) relative to how much time they’d devoted to the ooze seeping out of the IRS over the past 200-plus days. You know, the revelations that someone from very, extremely high up in Dear Leader’s administration directed the IRS to use its investigatory and regulatory powers to shut down an entire segment of the U.S. political spectrum in the run-up to the 2012 elections. Here we’ve got the IRS senior counsel — one of the exactly two political appointees in the entire organization — spending huge amounts of time visiting the White House. Huh? Why does anyone in the White House need to meet with the IRS’s lawyer? I can see meeting with the commissioner; that makes sense and there’s a huge amount that could legitimately be discussed that a president would want to hear directly from that person. But the lawyer? We’ve had revelations of conduct with is flagrantly criminal: Lois Lerner, a senior IRS official, turning over taxpayer information to the FEC. The division of which she was head turning over taxpayer information to private political organizations known to be hostile to the taxpayer(s) in question. And those are just the things that have come to light in the past three or four months. How much air time has been devoted to those crimes?
At any rate, we now have a partial answer to my question. Alas it does not relate to CNN but to its broadcast competition. Comparing the networks’ coverage within 24 hours to their total coverage of the IRS scandal over the six months since July 1 reveals . . . the story of someone setting out unnecessary traffic cones got 17 times the amount of coverage in one day that criminal conduct which threatens the entire American polity got in 6 months. Seventeen times the amount of coverage in one day. Update: It’s not as if everyone is asleep at the switch, of course. Right over here, at TaxProf Blog, Prof. Paul L. Caron remains on watch, daily compiling coverage of a scandal which in its implications cuts at the very heart of the American experiment in self-government. So you see, Lamestream Media, it can be done.
Now here’s another compare-and-contrast question: How much time have the broadcast media devoted to Hillary Clinton’s role in the Benghazi scandal in the past sixteen months, relative to those horrible traffic cones?
Stand by to stand by. The 2016 presidential campaign has started.