You’d think they’d try a little harder than this.
But then, when you’ve got nothing, it’s obvious. It’s hard to think of a more sweatily tendentious but content-free headline:
Christie Linked to Knowledge of Shut Lanes
We could experiment with some analogous headlines: headlines that would be just as technically accurate about people’s “links” to “knowledge of” the infamous lane closures now referred to as “Bridgegate.”
Smith Linked to Knowledge of Shut Lanes
Jones Linked to Knowledge of Shut Lanes
Hernandez Linked to Knowledge of Shut Lanes
Huang Linked to Knowledge of Shut Lanes
We could go through the Jersey phone books and do a couple million more of these.
I’ve never been a big fan of Chris Christie, and I’ve been basically neutral up to now on whether he wink-nudge knew about a political motive for the lane closures; i.e., even if he didn’t know know. He’s a scrappy Jersey pol, he’s pugnacious and brash, he’s definitely not a conservative Republican, yada yada. I figured, maybe.
But read the Times’s own article: there’s nothing in it to indicate that Christie had prior knowledge of a political motive for the lane closures. All it says is that Christie knew about the lane closures. That’s all David Wildstein has got.
There is obviously nothing nefarious in a public official knowing about lane closures on a major traffic artery. (If there is, the mayor of Los Angeles should be locked up for the rest of his life.)
There is something nefarious – transparently, laughably, off-puttingly, reputation-sinkingly nefarious – about the New York Times going out of its way to present manifestly non-nefarious information as if it’s nefarious.
Far from signaling the end for Christie, this latest salvo may be the best thing that’s happened to him – if the consciences of the people are still sensitive and discerning. Talk about your naked intentions. NYT and Wildstein have expended a weak round in a bad move: exposed their firing position and their tactical objective, without hitting the target. Whatever happens from here on out, their credibility is sunk. The momentum is gone. The media will pretend, loudly and persistently, that that’s not the case. But it is. They’re flogging a dead horse.
So I suspect Christie is making the right move by coming back swinging at Wildstein and the Times. He may not be a conservative, but neither is he a fool; I doubt he’d go on the attack if he knew his own position was weak.
But aside from that, the New York Times has done what Christie could not: it has turned the tables on itself. Try to overplay some joker’s weak hand out of political spite, and you forego the ex cathedra halo. You end up as mere background noise; your audience ends up jaded and restless.
I have a better sense today than I did a week ago about Christie weathering this. I hope only for the truth, whatever it may be, to win the battle. If Christie has it on his side, he should stand his ground. The media can arrange images and a narrative to make a ham sandwich look like Jack the Ripper, but it’s still a ham sandwich. Be the ham sandwich, Chris. Stay the course.