Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Is There Chalk under Chris Christie's Shoes?

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Is There Chalk under Chris Christie's Shoes?

Article excerpt

THERE'S A QUOTE I have heard attributed many times to former Gov. Brendan Byrne: "He has chalk under his shoes." It means someone has crossed an ethical line.

Perhaps because Byrne will be celebrating his 90th birthday Tuesday, it comes to mind this week. Over the past dozen years, I have had the pleasure of getting to know Byrne socially. After I moderated a program between Byrne and former Gov. Tom Kean Sr. at William Paterson University, I became friends with the governor and his wife, Ruthi, and we have dinner a few times a year.

I was in high school when Byrne was elected governor. As a Long Island native, what he was doing in New Jersey was not of great importance to me. Talk to older politicians now and you hear about Byrne saving the Pinelands and laying the foundation for Atlantic City's embrace of legalized gambling, and the institution of a state income tax. Most tell me that Byrne's now-signature wit at public events was not so common back in the day.

Yet the former prosecutor and governor has managed to reach three milestones for a New Jersey politician: He is beloved. He is respected. He hasn't been indicted.

So I go back to "chalk under his shoes" as I continue to study the hefty report issued last week by Randy Mastro for Governor Christie. Simply put, the question being asked around the country is whether Chris Christie has chalk under his shoes. The Mastro report concludes he does not. Maybe that is true. But it is clear that no one asked the governor to expose a sole for examination.

The driving force behind the report was to show that Christie never was in on the plotting of the access lane closures at the George Washington Bridge and knew nothing more about the event than that it was a supposed traffic study.

The report goes to great lengths to depict two individuals as the schemers: David Wildstein and Bridget Kelly.

Wildstein worked at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in a job created for him. He reported to Bill Baroni, a former state senator, who landed very softly at the Port Authority as its deputy executive director courtesy of Christie. Kelly was one of Christie's deputy chiefs of staff.

According to the report, Kelly is a distraught, out-of-control, needy woman, while Wildstein is an out-of-control, also needy-when- it-comes-to-Christie's attention man on a mission. What that mission was is never explained. Neither is why these people, if they were indeed so volatile, were hired and retained.

Wildstein's former life running a political website under a pseudonym is not explored. Former U.S. Attorney Christie's penchant for leaking material to the media, including Wildstein's site, is not mentioned. Wildstein appears to have popped out of the sky like the Wizard of Oz and landed in the Port Authority. …

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