New Jersey governor Chris Christie has had a rough start to 2014 and if he hopes to be a leading contender for the Republican presidential nominee in 2016, he will have to hope that things change and change fast.
Following allegations that officials within Chris Christie's office ordered lane closures on the George Washington Bridge as political payback against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, the New Jersey governor has been trying to right the wrongs with the hopes that he could sweep the scandal under the rug. The problem is that "Bridgegate" is a scandal and one that shouldn't come as a surprise. In today's political climate, the word "scandal" is often thrown around and has been used frequently by the modern Republican party. The highest profile "scandal" used by Republican as of late is in reference to Benghazi.
On September 11, 2012, a group of over 100 gunman attacked the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, resulting in the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. Republicans have accused President Obama and former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton of covering up the events in Benghazi and with holding key information and details that could lead to the truth about the attacks. The original explanation given by President Obama and Secretary Clinton was that the attacks were not heavily planned and were caused, at least in part, by the reaction to an anti-Islamic film, Innocence of Muslims, released by an amateur American filmmaker.
Republicans dismissed the explanation given by the Obama administration and instead blamed the attacks on extremists, possibly associated with al-Queda and put blame on Secretary Clinton for failing to provide accurate security to Ambassador Stevens. This is where the "scandal" starts to fall a part. The events in Libya should not be labeled a scandal, but rather a tragedy. A recent report from the New York Times notes that involvement from al-Queda was non-existent and that the attacks were brought on by the anti-Islamic film. Following the New York Times report, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report of their own and called the attacks on Benghazi "preventable," noting that lack of security in the area.
Republicans pounced on the Senate report and went on the attack against Obama, Clinton and company. The issue with the new report is that it didn't provide any earth shaking breaking news. In fact, according to multiple reports in May of 2013, Ambassador Stevens actually declined additional security not once, but twice when it was offered to him.
Democrats have revved up the attacks on Christie and have highlighted every new bit of information that has been released on the Bridgegate scandal. The difference between Bridgegate and Benghazi is that Benghazi was a tragedy and while it could have possibly been prevented, no one within the Obama administration planned for it to happen. Bridgegate, on the other hand, was orchestrated by people within "Team Christie," and whether or not the governor gave the orders or had knowledge of the events, he created an environment where that behavior was considered acceptable.
If Chris Christie has any hopes of becoming the Republican nominee for President he will have to do heavy damage control, but regardless what Fox News and other right-wing media outlets might say, Benghazi is and was not a scandal, but Bridgegate definitely is.