Why viewers have to be careful: Cable news guests say the darnedest things. When you listen to such guests, you really do have to be careful.
Consider Nick Acocella, who guested with Lawrence on last Thursday’s Last Word. Lawrence introduced him as “editor and publisher of Politifax New Jersey.”
That's a branch of PolitickerNJ.
Eventually, Acocella spoke. Part of this was right on target. Part of this was weird:
ACOCELLA (1/16/14): [Christie] is a very cautious guy. He’s a trained lawyer, and he’s going to talk lawyer talk. We don’t know what he’s going to do. We don’t—We very much agree with one part of the highlighted statement. At this point, we actually don’t know much about this very peculiar set of events. In particular, it’s very unclear why those traffic lanes were closed.
You know what? We don’t know anything yet. All we know is what David Wildstein wants us to know. Every piece of paper we’ve had came from the papers that, that he submitted to the committee. And I’m assuming the committee didn’t leak them. So everything we know is what David Wildstein wants us to know. And I think a lot of it is him hinting to the U.S. attorney that “I’ve got more on this person if you come to me with an offer.”
Various motives have been proposed. At this point, it’s very unclear if any of them will turn out to be right.
If we assume a bad motive in the lane closings, the conduct seems especially weird. According to sworn testimony, David Wildstein was directly warned that the closings would cause a great deal of trouble in Fort Lee and that everybody would notice.
This testimony came from Cedrick Fulton, Director of Tunnels, Bridges, and Terminals, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey:
ASSEMBLYMAN WISNIEWSKI (12/9/13): And what did you say to Mr. Wildstein?According to Fulton, Wildstein was told that the lane closings would be a highly visible event. “No one would miss it.”
FULTON: One, that it was important for the Executive Director to be advised. Two, that because this would be such a visible event—no one would miss it—that our media relations should be advised; and that three, the town of Fort Lee would be greatly concerned with this test.
Wildstein went ahead with the closings as planned. If you’re doing something as an act of revenge, that’s a peculiar way to proceed.
Normally, people will try to exact revenge in ways that don’t get widely noticed. At least, that’s how it gets done in the movies.
The fact that everyone was bound to notice is what makes the closings so weird. Also weird: Acoccella’s remark about who released all the emails and documents in this case.
On January 8, a sharply limited number of emails and text messages were released to the press. Generally speaking, newspapers didn’t disclose the source of these documents.
Later, the New York Times public editor said these document were released “by a source in New Jersey politics.” According to the public editor, “it’s safe to say that the reporters got the emails the old-fashioned way: Leaked to them by a politically motivated source in New Jersey.”
That was the first batch of documents. On January 10, thousands of pages of emails and text messages were released—but in this case, there was no mystery about the source.
In the next day’s New York Times, Kate Zernike referred to “the release on Friday of roughly 2,000 pages of documents by New Jersey state legislators, which included emails and texts among top officials in the Christie administration and officials at the Port Authority.”
Earlier, Zernike had reported that the documents would be released that day. “Democratic legislators” in New Jersey had “promised to release more documents on” that day, she said, referring to the committee members who were probing the traffic lane closings.
Six days later, Acocella was still saying he assumed that the committee didn’t release the documents. “So everything we know is what David Wildstein wants us to know.”
In one basic way, Acocella was right! In our view, “we [pretty much] don’t know anything yet“ about these extremely strange events. We think it’s important to keep that point in mind as we move forward from here.
You might even say that Acocella was more right than he knew! We were puzzled by the second part of his statement. Lawrence just kept going.