New Jersey’s case of she said, she said

 

The question du jour is, why did Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer wait so long to step forward and level her corruption charges at Chris Christie?

As surely everyone knows by now, Zimmer claims that following Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno told her that Hoboken wouldn’t receive relief funds unless the mayor supported a commercial development project favored by Christie.

Not surprisingly, the governor’s office denies this. And Guadagno denies that the conversation took place as described. An investigation has ensued.

After the famous bridge closing, this amounts to a second scandal for Christie, causing enough smoke to make even a skeptic wonder if there might be fire somewhere. But the Zimmer story also seems too good — or awful — to be true. Hence, the nagging question, heard from pundits to pedestrians: Why now?

Let’s take a look, dispassionately.

Zimmer’s only “evidence” that the conversation took place is her passionate insistence that it did — and an alleged journal entry in which she expressed her disappointment in and outrage toward Christie. On this basis alone, Christie and Co. face a full-on investigation heaped on top of other investigations regarding the traffic jam. Can Democrats stick a fork in Christie yet? Certainly not for want of roasting.

The journal entry, provided to CNN and available for viewing online, is ripe for dissection. The handwriting is messy, as if the author were distraught or in a hurry, and reads in part: “I prefer typing on computer — but maybe it is time to get back to journal writing. Embarrassed to say — but I found myself breaking down last night on the plane. I was watching ‘Les Miserables’ thinking about my dad — and so I cried for him. But then I was emotional about Governor Christie.”

Hmmmm.

Zimmer seems credible and sincere. But given the size of the nail she’s trying to hammer into Christie’s coffin, due diligence is in order. Let’s begin with the words “but maybe it’s time to get back to journal writing.”

Really? Just now? Was the inspiration Les Miz? Or the bridge scandal? Her dad? Why on this particular day in May 2013 was the mayor motivated (finally) to start journal writing (again)?

One is faced with at least two possibilities: Either she’s been telling herself that she really must get back to keeping a journal. Or, she’s explaining to future cable interviewers why this entry appears so suddenly in a “journal” that she otherwise seems to have neglected.

The skeptic further notes that Zimmer doesn’t come charging out to say Christie is just another corrupt politician. Instead she sets a stage, with no less than Les Miz. Instantly, my head is playing, “Do you hear the people sing?” while revolutionaries fight with sticks against government bullies and income inequality.

Zimmer weeps first for her father (don’t we all?), then for Christie. She had had such high hopes. Or, was she merely emotional because Fantine died, leaving poor Cosette without a mother? We may never know.

It is fair to imagine that we would not be so baffled were it not for the bridge scandal. This is because it seems probable that we never would have heard about Zimmer’s crisis if not for the bridge mess. It apparently took other people pointing fingers at Christie for the mayor of Hoboken to locate her courage.

Zimmer says she was afraid that no one would believe her, which may be true. Or maybe she was willing to keep her own counsel because, as others have claimed, Christie is a bully. Or maybe she didn’t speak up because this is the way politics is played in New Jersey and she just wanted to go along. Maybe she was afraid she wouldn’t get the money her town so desperately needed.

Maybe.

But by failing to speak up sooner and waiting until the safety of a mob had formed, Zimmer has in a sense indicted herself. Either she is — or was — as politically corrupt as those she accuses, or she is too weak to be a leader. Perhaps she is merely, plainly and simply, afraid.

Zimmer may well be telling the truth, and it also may be impossible ever to know. In the meantime, of this we can be certain. The demolition of Chris Christie, until now the best hope for a Republican presidency, got under way just as the serious fundraising and politickin' were beginning.

Why now? But, of course, now.

© 2014, Washington Post Writers Group

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