Five Problems With Rachel Maddow's Alternative Theory For Bridgegate

Saturday’s New York Post asked “Was Bridgegate a fight over judges?” running with an idea Rachel Maddow introduced to the cable-viewing masses on Thursday evening. The alternate theory suggests that the closing of lanes on the George Washington Bridge may not have been an act of political retribution against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, but against Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg instead.

Since he has been in office, the issue of New Jersey Supreme Court has been a contentious one for Christie. In 2010, he declined to reappoint a sitting justice, spurning State Senate Democrats who retaliated by rejecting all of Christie’s later nominees. On August 12, 2013, Christie chose not to nominate a justice he had personally endorsed because “I was not going to let her loose to the animals,” (“the animals” being Christie-speak for Senate Dems, in this case). The following day, Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s now-fired deputy chief of staff, sent the smoking gun email to David Wildstein, the now-resigned Port Authority Director of Interstate Capital Projects: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”

Rachel Maddow (and the Post) meets the logical fallacy: you know, the one that says, if event A happens, then event B happens, so event A must have caused event B.

Weinberg has long been a Christie foe. In 2009, she was Jon Corzine’s running mate. Christie asked the press to “please take the bat out on her” in 2011. The alternate theory is that high ranking Christie staffers closed the GWB lanes to retaliate against Weinberg because of the Senate Democrats’ general refusal to cooperate with Christie’s wishes for the State Supreme Court.

Are you making a connection here?

No? Me neither.

First, Weinberg only became Senate Majority Leader in 2012, after Senator Barbara Buono, Christie’s gubernatorial opponent, was ousted by Democratic leadership. It’s not like she’s been running the show since Christie assumed office. She’s probably not even running the show now.

Second, Senator Loretta Weinberg is, as you may be able to guess from her title, a State Senator. That means she represents a Legislative District, not a town. Weinberg represents LD 37 which is comprised of 13 different towns, including, yes, Fort Lee. But Weinberg doesn’t live there (she lives in Teaneck, which is not even close to Fort Lee), nor is her office there (it’s also in Teaneck). In Weinberg’s last election, she beat her opponent by nearly 15,000 votes, and she took Fort Lee by a full 1195 votes. If Weinberg were to lose Fort Lee, it is more than likely that she would still get elected. But were Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich to lose Fort Lee, he definitely would not get to continue to be Mayor of Fort Lee. Duh.

Third, so far, no one has uncovered anything in the thousands of Bridgegate documents released last week that suggests this was about Weinberg. There are no references to Legislative District 37. No one seems to be trying to mess with Teaneck. What have been found, however, are lots of references to Mark Sokolich and Fort Lee. Resigned Port Authority executive Bill Baroni repeatedly refers to Sokolich, who is Croatian, as “the Serbian.” David Wildstein, the other resigned Port Authority executive called him a “little Serbian.” Bill Stepien, Christie’s now-fired campaign manager and top adviser, calls Sokolich an “idiot.” Nobody gave Weinberg any fun nicknames!

Fourth, Sokolich sent an email on September 12 to Baroni, informing him that “members of the public have indicated to me that the Port Authority Police Officers are advising commuters in response to their complaints that this recent traffic debacle is the result of a decision that I, as the Mayor, recently made.” It is possible that higher-ups in the Port Authority ordered police officers to inform Fort Lee residents that this was Sokolich’s fault. In which case, how again does this negatively impact Weinberg? Why wouldn’t the Port Authority Police Officers have told Fort Lee residents that the traffic was the result of a decision made by her? It is also possible that police officers arrived at the answer themselves that yeah, the mayor of a town would probably have to sign off on something that would impact his residents so severely. In which case, why bother to go to such lengths to ruin Weinberg if you’re not even going to make sure her constituents get the message that they should be mad at her?

Finally, there is a question of how many conspiracies could anybody run at once? Certainly, people in the Christie administration could have been, and obviously have been, dumb enough to jeopardize the governor by screwing up the GWB and putting it all down on paper. Or, they could have been smart enough to screw up the GWB in order to retaliate against a politician (Weinberg) without mentioning her or making it clear to anybody that she was being punished. But it defies logic and credibility to suggest that they could have done both.

Stop trying to make the Loretta Weinberg theory happen. It’s not going to happen.

The above guest post previously appeared at the author’s blog. Read more from Olivia Nuzzi here.

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