Fort Lee: Watching story stubbornly hold!


Facts are not stubborn things, Hardball edition: In our last post, we described the way Hardball’s Chris Matthews is scripting a story about Fort Lee.

Chris is good at typecasting drama. When it comes to facts, not so much.

His craziest moment still has to be the Hardball show from December 2007 when he said, all through the hour, that Candidate Obama’s “mother and maternal grandmother” were “Islamic.” To gaze in the void, just click here.

By that time, Chris had been pimping Obama for almost a year, part of his war against Hillary Clinton. Incredibly, he still didn’t seem to know the most basic facts about Obama’s background.

Christopher tends to be like that! Last night, he and two of his most trusted henchmen bungled some facts from Fort Lee.

Bless his heart! In a highly unusual move, Chris was trying to quote a report from an actual newspaper! In response, David Corn emitted the ubiquitous “yes” when something else should have been said:
MATTHEWS (1/15/14): In Christie’s case, the Wall Street Journal reported last month that he had tried the heat taken off in his way. Here’s how he did it: "Mr. Christie, a Republican, complained in a private phone call to New Jersey Governor Andrew Cuomo, that Patrick Foye, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was pressing too hard to get to the bottom of why the number of toll lanes into the bridge from Fort Lee, New Jersey, were cut off three to one in early September, according to a person familiar with the matter."

For the record, Christie denied the Wall Street Journal report.

But there you have another way of going to somebody else in government saying, “Let’s kind of cut this off.” So, he to me has his hands on this. Why would a governor call another governor and say, “Use your offices and stop this damn investigation?”

CORN: Yes.
Bless his heart! After quoting the Wall Street Journal, Chris noted that Christie has denied the report in question. He failed to note that Governor Cuomo has denied it too.

Cuomo’s statement is now a month old. Yesterday, even the New York Times reported it. By sometime in the next several decades, Chris and his staff will have heard.

That's why Chris gets the millions! That said, David wasn’t much help. Don’t let the children watch:
CORN (continuing directly): Yes. Listen, we know there was a—

MATTHEWS: Why would he do it?

CORN: We know there was a cover-up. They came up with a cover story, a traffic study. And his chief associates at the Port Authority stuck to this. So, like you want to keep with the Watergate theory—

MATTHEWS: What do you mean, keep with it?

CORN: They came up with this stonewall, with a cover-up, and it kind of stuck for a couple of months. And that is part of the investigation. But I think, at the end of the day—

MATTHEWS: Why would he risk calling Cuomo up? Did he think Cuomo would cover for him?

CORN: Because, because he—because he probably thinks there is something at risk here.

MATTHEWS: Yes, but why would he risk telling a Democrat he was afraid of an investigation

CORN: Because he’s afraid of an investigation, Chris.


FINEMAN: No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
Bless their hearts! The boys went on and on, failing to report the fact that Cuomo backed Christie last month.

Who knows? Maybe Cuomo was lying. But that’s what Governor Cuomo said, unless you watch these pitiful boys tell you the stories they like.

As you can see, Howard jumped in at that point. He’s Hardball’s longest-serving echo. In this age of generational transfer in cable news, his survival is a remarkable story.

That said, Howard was struggling with basic facts too. For our money, there’s a basic journalistic problem lurking here:
FINEMAN (continuing directly): No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

MATTHEWS: Howard, what do you think?

FINEMAN: To me, to me, the most Nixonian moment of this whole thing so far was at the press conference last week when Chris Christie said, against all evidence, he said, “And by the way, maybe there really was a traffic study.”

That was a Nixonian moment, if there was ever one.
By now, David and Howard had both said that the Christie team came up with a cover story, a stonewall, in the form of that non-existent traffic study. According to Howard, Christie had stuck to this as a possibility “against all evidence.”

In this way, pundits have given the impression that the story about the traffic study was dreamed up after the fact. But as the emails revealed last week, Wildstein and them actually seemed to be out on I-95 in real time that week. To all appearances, they were keeping track, or pretending to keep track, of northbound traffic flow.

Was this some sort of actual study, moronically executed? Was it an outright sham? Not being clairvoyant, we can’t tell you—but we can tell you that various texts and emails suggested that some of the team were actually out on I-95 recording the traffic flow.

Was that a real “study,” or was it a hoax? We can’t tell you that! But from the press corps, you'll never hear about those emails at all, even though they might end up playing some role in the eventual truth.

Were they staging a fake traffic study as part of a future power grab? We have no way of knowing. But the boys of cable have a long-standing approach to such matters. They simply disappear the facts which don’t fit their preferred story line.

We’ve seen no one explain those emails, in which northbound traffic flow was apparently being recorded. Until they’re explained, those emails are part of the record (except in the press corps, of course). They may be part of the ultimate story, if it ever comes clear.

For the record, Obama’s mother wasn’t Islamic. By now, we think Chris has heard.

Discuss at length: Have those emails been explained? As far as we know, they have not. As with everything else, it's all about crafting the story.

The story itself keeps jumping around, as we'll see in our next post.


  1. OMB

    What is the pee-paw of the blogosphere's favorite "P" word?

    Perspiring? Piddle? or Pimp?

    "Younger" misused mom's of four in their early forties want to know.

    Perplexed in Peoria

    1. No fair 1:25. We know that's your favorite phrase. Your only one. But how dare you compare yourself to BOB.
      Neither one of you guys invented that phrase though you're
      easily confused.

    2. Speaking of which, what's become of Professor Parker?

    3. He's been thrown down the memory hole along with those low-income school kids who have trouble keeping up with their peers in Poland and Minnesota.

  2. Nah. The traffic study was bogus, a cover story, which was what was reported.

    I think the "there was a legit traffic study!" is probably a dead end.

    Traffic study = made-up

    Cuomo and Christie is a different story, though. Matthews is just making that part up.

    1. Whoever said "there was a legit traffic study" Anon?

  3. The bogus-ness of Baroni's so-called traffic study has been well documented (as well as the fact that the lane-closures, which followed none of the PA protocols, actually interfered with a legitimate traffic study that had been underway for some time -- yes, others in the PA were conducting a real traffic study related in part to the GWB, but Baroni wasn't that one). Even Christie isn't really trying to claim otherwise (one brief comment in December, but, prudently, he hasn't returned to that suggestion). One easy source of journalistic documentation: NJ newspapers like the Bergen Record.

    Is it necessary for people discussing current events to re-document already well-documented elements in every discussion? If I refer to the Declaration of Independence of 1776, do I have to provide evidence that it really was signed in 1776? Just because Bob wasn't paying attention when journalists did their job on the traffic study gambit doesn't mean they didn't do their job. The danger is, many of his readers who comment seem to use Bob as a major (and only reliable) news source, and they'll believe there is a real question here. If Bob wants to challenge apparently sound conventional wisdom, then he might do a little research first. Otherwise, he's just playing a game of insinuation and innuendo of the kind he likes to criticize.

    1. And this was all discussed and linked to last weekend when Bob first posed his pitiful question.

      His combox hits dropping percipitously since, he is now back to that "greatest hits" and even begging his readers to "Discuss at length."

      Sorry Bob. Been there. Done that. You didn't pay attention the first time, why would anyone think you will this time?

      Or "is it possible" that instead of probing for answers, the only thing that interests you is generating Web traffic?

    2. Most of the arguments that the traffic study was bogus seem to come from the fact that it was poorly executed. There isn't any smoking gun email that says "We'd better invent a traffic study if we're going to shut down traffice" or some such. Failing that, concluding that it wasn't really a study because it didn't follow protocols only proves that it was poorly done, not that it was fake. When supervisors decide to intervene in everyday operations of a department, no matter what their intentions, they (1) often do not believe they need to follow normal procedures, (2) may not know what those procedures are, (3) mess up because they may not have any ground-level experience in what they are doing, especially if they are patronage appointees and didn't work their way up through that dept. So this can be fully explained by incompetence. As Somerby points out -- which explanation is correct remains to be determined. It is no surprise that those who wish to "get" Christie require far less evidence to convince them that the study was fake.

    3. Anonymous at 3:09, you are conducting an entirely theoretical argument. Read the actual evidence, which shows that the possibilities you outline here are (at best) irrelevant. For instance, "not following protocol" here includes actively instructing people to keep "the study" secret from others who should have been involved in approving it in the first place, not giving notice to Fort Lee's law enforcement and emergency services (this for a "study" to be conducted during the week of 9/11), and in fact refusing to answer urgent requests for explanations from the people like the major of Fort Lee or the state senator representing the citizens most directly affected. You're really serious that this may simply have been a "poorly done" "study"? (If I drive drunk and negligently kill a pedestrian, am I just "driving poorly"?) Again, even Christie knows better than to go there.

      In a weird way, the logical nitpicking that Bob loves and that a lot of his commenters also indulge in makes even merely okay reporters look good: they'll get some facts wrong and may be prone to easy narratives, but most also have a basic sense of what is "reasonable" and eventually get many important things right. Maybe there is some wisdom to that legal fiction, "the reasonable person."

    4. And for further evidence, read what U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller says today of the answers he received from the Port Authority to his written questions.

    5. I assume that even if you ran over someone and were unsteady on your feet and slurring, the cops would take you to the ER where you'd be examined and screened for drugs and alcohol.

      They wouldn't just assume there was no other reason for your being impaired.

      Perhaps you smell like alcohol because just had one glass of wine, or you 're a diabetic with fruity breath caused by ketoacidisis. .

      Journalists aren't supposed to decide someone is guilty based upon circumstances. They can report that the "so-called traffic study" was unconventional, that some expert said that it wasn't t up to standards, and say that some have charged that the study was a coverup.

      They aren't supposed to go beyond the investigators and decide these people are guilty and then report it as though it's indisputable.

      Not even when they're cable news hosts in love with a story.

    6. Remember that the next time you are pulled over for suspicion of DUI, folks.

      Just tell the cop you are a diabetic with fruity breath. He/she is sure to let you go.

    7. Anon 5:55pm, with the way you read, you just might be a journalist.

    8. This comment has been removed by the author.

    9. On second thought, this entire discussion is as silly as Bob.

  4. OMB (Mystery Solved)

    BOB has never said there was a legitimate study going on! In fact, he never said it was even if good faith. What was it BOB is trying to tell us?

    We started sifting through the many, many clues.

    We started with the "P" word itself. Pimp. Perspire. Piddle.
    Could the perp be a pundit? BOB would like that. Beats it being a blogger.

    When deadrat objected to BOB calling Christie a pig, somebody compared him to Pee Wee.

    Christie. Pig. Pot bellied. Pee Wee.

    C. P. B. W.

    Couldn't be the Kelly dame, even though she mysteriously changed her name to something more Irish. B for Bridget, but no C,P, or W.
    Besides meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. She was more likely to go for the golfer than the good people of Ft. Lee.

    We knew the actual perp was Captain Pistashio, with the cones, in the toll plaza. CP-CTP. No B. He was a union goon. They don't crack knees without somebody big putting them in the line-up with a bat.

    We knew Wildstein was on the Plaza and the phone. WPP. He was a blogger with a B. But no C unless you count high School Chum, which we know he wasn't. Christie said he couldn't give him an alibi in 12th grade. He looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food. His fingers did the texting.

    Chris Christie. Criminal thief. Pot bellied CCCPB. All the letters added up. Looking more and more like the master mind. But he's another damned P word. A pol. No motive for him. For a pol a traffic jam is as useless as a pair of high forceps in the hands of a plumber. Why would a pol perpetrate a toll traffic tie up?

    Then it hit me like a hot Santa Ana wind that blows the smog back from a long night of Tequila sunrises. Tequila. Tolls. Traffic Tie-ups.

    I was alliterating down the wrong letter.

    It was the trolls. But which one? They are mostly anonymous types with no friends or bad aliases.

    It hit me in the solar plexus. I bent over and took hold of the room with both hands and spun it. When I had it nicely spinning I gave it a full swing and hit myself on the back of the head with the floor.

    It was no troll. The commenter fingering deadrat spotted the key witness. Pee Wee. And what did BOB keep saying? Like Hemingway he's a guy that keeps saying the same thing over and over until you begin to believe it must be good.

    He said the study was BUNGLED. Who else would Pee Wee have seen?

    1. You calling someone /else/ a troll? Now that's a bungle.

    2. "Couldn't be the Kelly dame, even though she mysteriously changed her name to something more Irish."
      - kz

      >>> her maiden name is 'daul'. i cant find the etymology of this name.

    3. We followed a link someone posted to a NYPost article with the low down on the blone in the caper. You're right about the Daul dame. Good irishman that you are you should have guessed its ety-whatever by the monnikers of her brothers. Liam. Eamon.


    4. " the monnikers of her brothers. Liam. Eamon."

      >>> its not always that simple. some, who are of irish-catholic descent, dont want their children to seem too 'irish' (as though if youre of irish-catholic heritage you cant be a true american) and so they give them more generic names -- think the kennedy brothers: joseph, john, robert and edward. while others, who have more than one ethnic heritage, may wish to offset the non-irish surname.

      and kz, i know you meant no harm, but im not an irishman!!! i may not be a very good american, but im 100%. usa! usa! usa!

      i searched a number of relevant sites and my best guess is that 'daul' is a variant of 'dahl' a common scandinavian name.

    5. Yes, KZ. It is still "possible" that Liam and Eamon are the "little Serbians" of previous mystery.

      No one knows, because nobody has bothered to ask these critical questions.

  5. So the doll was a Daul. Sounds Scandandavian to one ear, French if you ask me. It all depends on where you sit and what your own private score is. I didn't have one. I didn't care. I finished the drink and went to bed.