Interlude—What the AP said: With apologies, we want to show you an AP report we didn’t see until this very morning.
The report appeared last Saturday. In an overview of the thousands of pages of emails and texts which were released the day before, two AP reporters mused about the “traffic study” which devoured Fort Lee.
Overall, the AP report painted an unflattering picture of the conduct of the Christie team during and after the now-famous lane closings.
(“In the documents, officials appointed by Christie seemed more concerned about the political fallout than the effects of the gridlock in the town of Fort Lee during four mornings in September,” the reporters wrote as they started.)
Still, there actually had been some sort of traffic study that week, the AP reporters judged.
The following passage appears fairly deep in this AP report. There actually was some sort of study, an engineering professor said after reviewing the documents:
DELLI SANTI AND MULVIHILL (1/11/14): In recent weeks, questions have been raised about whether the closings were part of a legitimate study. Christie himself said Thursday: "I don't know whether this was a traffic study that then morphed into a political vendetta or a political vendetta that morphed into a traffic study."It could be a good-faith study, the professor judged. For the record, that leaves the possibility that it could have been something else.
The newly released documents show there was, in fact, a traffic study that was done, or at least a preliminary one. Two versions turned up in the documents—one was six pages and the other 16. Both were dated Sept. 12, the day before the lanes reopened.
The documents include study findings that Baroni gave to lawmakers at a hearing last year: When the lanes were closed, the main bridge traffic moved a bit faster, but local traffic had major delays.
Michael Cassidy, a University of California-Berkeley engineering professor who occasionally works with the California Department of Transportation, told The Associated Press that the preliminary study appears to be a legitimate internal report of the sort transportation officials often circulate among themselves.
"It could well be a good-faith effort, if not the finest in the annals. I cannot say this is not a study," he said. "You wouldn't want to publish it in an academic journal.”
How to deal with the fallout from the traffic jams became an issue...
On Saturday, we saw some of the documents referenced here as we struggled through the thousands of pages which had been posted on-line in highly jumbled form. As we noted in this post, those emails and attached documents made us wonder if something resembling an actual study actually had been conducted, in real time, during the obvious craziness of the lane closings.
We can’t tell you if the AP’s judgments, or those of Cassidy, are sound:
Was this the gang that couldn’t close traffic lanes straight? We have no idea.
Was the Christie gang conducting a hoax? Were they pretending to conduct a study for any one of a number of possible reasons? We can’t judge that either.
We do know this. In hours of watching cable TV; in days of reading news reports in our leading newspapers; we have seen no reference to the documents we saw last Saturday, or to the documents the AP referenced. For whatever reason, the people who service your needs on cable TV haven’t told you about them.
You haven’t been told that David Wildstein and his crew were recording, or pretending to record, northbound traffic flow on I-95 in real time that week. You’ve seen no one comment on the documents in which they record, or seem to record, the improvement in northbound traffic which allegedly resulted from the crazy lane closings.
According to Cassidy, Wildstein and his ridiculous team produced what “appears to be a legitimate internal report of the sort transportation officials often circulate among themselves.” Is that an accurate assessment? We don’t know.
We do know this—we have seen no one asked to assess this part of Wildstein’s conduct. Indeed, we’ve seen no one even mention the fact that this conduct occurred.
Why did Wildstein shut those lanes? We can’t tell you that.
Why did this part of his conduct disappear from the press? We can hazard a guess:
Within the guild which we still call a press corps, a Standard Story quickly formed about this ridiculous conduct. At our nation’s paper of record, Kate Zernike quickly voiced an inaccurate judgment, right at the top of page one:
ZERNIKE (1/9/14): The mystery of who closed two lanes onto the George Washington Bridge—turning the borough of Fort Lee, N.J., into a parking lot for four days in September—exploded into a full-bore political scandal for Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday. Emails and texts revealed that a top aide had ordered the closings to punish the town's mayor after he did not endorse the governor for re-election.Please. Even Rachel understood that those emails and texts had “revealed” no such thing. Here’s what she said this Monday:
MADDOW (1/13/14): Something still is missing about the bridge scandal. And that is, to be frank, a lack of any proof whatsoever, any pointed suggestion even, that the Fort Lee mayor not endorsing Governor Chris Christie was, in fact, the reason the bridge lanes were shut down.As far as we know, what Maddow says in those highlighted passages is perfectly accurate.
MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki is an experienced New Jersey reporter who knows a lot of the principals involved in this scandal. He’s pointing to this giant billion-dollar development in Fort Lee which is being built basically right at the spot where those Fort Lee access lanes feed on to the George Washington Bridge. Could those lanes have been shut down to mess with that development somehow?
What is not yet explained in this scandal is why it happened. With all the blanket wall-to-wall coverage we are seeing of this scandal across the country right now, not enough of the coverage points out that what is assumed to be the central reason it all happened hasn’t been proven. There’s not a shred of evidence out of those 2,000-plus pages that were released from the legislature that suggests that that was why it happened.
According to Maddow, “there’s not a shred of evidence out of those 2,000-plus pages” that the traffic lanes were closed to punish Sokolich for his failure to endorse Christie. And yet, our hapless paper of record said that’s what the first twenty pages of the documents had “revealed!”
This is the way our “press corps” works! In the current case, here’s what happened:
As is often the case, the New York Times, and the rest of the corps, moved to adopt a Standard Group Story about the Fort Lee disaster.
As a point of professional courtesy, major errors have been permitted to pass without comment. For example, Maddow isn’t going to tell you that the Times has been clownishly wrong in its premature assessment of motive.
That said, the overall shape of the Standard Story has been clear for some time. Presumably, any suggestion that there actually was some sort of study, real or feigned, would have damaged the buzz.
Routinely, this is the way our “press corps” works when a thrilling new standard story grows. Progressive interests have been savaged by this gong-show culture over the past twenty to forty years.
Just a few examples:
This culture produced a decade of Whitewater bullroar, with pumpkins being shot in back yards. It then produced twenty months of Standard Fake Tales about Candidate Gore, tales which sent Bush to the White House.
Starting in September 2012, this same monster devoured Susan Rice. Maddow and all her MSNBC colleagues ran and hid while this occurred, just as their predecessors had done when gong-show tales savaged Clinton and Clinton, then took down Candidate Gore.
By now, even your favorite “liberal” journalists understand that this process sent Bush to the White House. They just aren’t willing to say so out loud! Nor were they willing to challenge the guild when it agreed to recite the gong-show scripts which made a liar of Rice.
Your favorite journalists are terrible people. On the brighter side, they vote the same way you do, and they enjoy extremely well-paid careers.
Their mommies and daddies are proud.
This is the culture of the guild which pretends to be our press corps. Once they’ve invented a Standard Group Tale, all contrary facts, indications or suggestions must be disappeared.
Whether the target is Christie or Rice, their greatest god, Tale, must prevail. Whatever happened in Fort Lee last fall, this is the process which has prevailed in the bulk of the “press corps” this month.
We had planned to do something different today. Once we stumbled upon that AP report, we thought you should see it instead.
Why did Wildstein and others record, or pretend to record, northbound traffic flow that week? Why did they create those reports, which may have been real and may have been Potemkin?
We’ve seen no one asked to explain! Instead, we’ve seen the children gambol and play, a brutal process we’ve been recording for the past fifteen years.
Chris Matthews [HEART] a new Irish lass. On balance, Maddow has run a clown college.
Tomorrow: As heard on Lawrence’s program last night: “We don’t know anything yet!”