Really you can get away with anything if you pretend it’s a study.
I give them credit at least for the attempt. “I was just conducting a study to see what happens to your lunch when I flush it down the toilet,” the schoolyard bully explains.
“I’m not cheating,” you explain, climbing out from under the desk. “I’m just, uh, conducting a study of what happens when someone applies a lot of lipstick to his collar very slowly from beneath a desk.” You smile, nervously. “It looks like your wife gets angry is what happens! Huh! Great to know! Science!”
I wish they had stuck to this story longer, because I would love to see someone seriously presenting the results of this study, maybe as a PowerPoint. “TRAFFIC:” one slide would read. “MOVES LESS WHEN YOU BLOCK IT.” There would be a long pause. “AMBULANCES,” the next slide would read. “WHEN LANES ARE BLOCKED, THEY HAVE TROUBLE GETTING TO THE PEOPLE IN NEED OF URGENT CARE.” Someone would cough nervously, and the presenters would skip the next six slides.
Studies can be silly, or at least sound silly. Some actual scientists just did a study to see if they could find evidence of time travelers on the Internet, and it turned out they couldn’t.
The only trouble is that it actually has to be a study, and you have to make sure the other people at the Port Authority know that it’s a study, two steps that the folks involved in Bridgegate (really, Bridgegate? Aren’t we done with “gates” yet?) appear to have skipped.
Instead of this being a stupid study, it looks to have been an asinine power play. E-mails released Wednesday from a senior aide to Chris Christie and some of his appointees reveal that the blockage occurred in response to an e-mail from his deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly, writing, “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”
“Got it,” replied Port Authority official David Wildstein.
And thus, two of the three local-access lanes from Fort Lee to the George Washington Bridge were closed, bringing traffic to a screeching halt.
“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee?” With this e-mailed threat from an aide, could Christie go from Favored 2016-er to Lowest-Budget Bond Villain of All Time? And all this, for what? Sure, the mayor of Fort Lee, a Democrat, didn’t endorse Christie, but the governor won handily, nonetheless, and — is it really worth this? Even if he’s not directly linked, the whole operation looks bad. It’s like cutting off your bridge traffic to spite your favored presidential campaign.
Admittedly he was only the favored candidate of people who like to compile lists of presidential candidates three years in advance, and those are devious individuals who are not to be trusted. These people tend to be fun only in TV dramas, when you spend only one hour with them a week. In real life, they tend to overrun conversations and embarrass you when you accidentally reveal that you thought Doc Fix was the name of an old man. But if they turn on him, maybe actual voters will follow.
It’s all fun and games until your cones start blocking the way for first responders.
Maybe it was a study after all. Stopping traffic, it seems, stops traffic. And foolish punitive pranks, it seems, can bring something else to a halt — if not a whole campaign, at least its momentum.