Even before Gov. Chris Christie’s lengthy pity-party press conference last week on the George Washington Bridge “traffic study,” I was thinking of one of the famous lines from “Casablanca.” The one where Capt. Renault (Claude Rains), the prefect of police, having himself won a bundle at roulette at Rick’s Cafe, orders the place to be shuttered.
Rick (Humphrey Bogart): “How can you close me up? On what grounds?”
Renault: “I’m shocked — shocked! — to find that gambling is going on in here!”
The Christie version turned out to be more verbose but similar: “I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its planning or its execution, and I am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here . . . “
Stunned, he is. Stunned!
Thanks, gov, for living up to the script.
Later, I realized that many of the lines from “Casablanca” could, with little revision, be applied to the ongoing Bridgegate drama. Even the classic opening voiceover is adaptable. So, with apologies to screenwriters Julius Epstein, Philip Epstein and Howard Koch:
“With the coming of September 2013, many eyes in imprisoned New Jersey turned hopefully, or desperately, toward the freedom of the George Washington Bridge. It was the great embarkation point.
“But, not everybody could get to the bridge directly, and so a tortuous, roundabout refugee trail sprang up – Main St. to Lemoine Ave…. across Fletcher Ave. to Hudson Terrace… The fortunate eventually make their way to Manhattan. But the others wait in Fort Lee… and wait… and wait… and wait.” “
It’s still the same old story/ A fight for votes and glory…”
“Who are you really, Bridget, and what were you before? What did you do and what did you think, huh?”
“We said no questions.”
“You said I was to do the thinking for both of us, Bridget. Well, I’ve done a lot of it since then, and it all adds up to one thing. You’re getting under that bus with Bill Stepien where you belong.”
“Of all the governor’s offices in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”
“Let’s see, the last time we met…”
“Was at the GWB.”
“How nice, you remembered. But of course, that was the day the Port Authority marched in.”
“I remember every detail. You wore blue, the cones were orange.”
“What in heaven’s name brought you to Fort Lee?’
“Faster traffic. I came to Fort Lee to beat the traffic.”
“The traffic? The traffic is backed up to Ohio.”
“I was misinformed.”
“I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people (Kelly, Stepien, Wildstein) don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.”
Media pundits: “You know how you sound, Gov. Christie? Like a man who’s trying to convince himself of something he doesn’t believe in his heart.”
“We’ll always have Trenton.”
And, of course: “Round up the usual suspects.” As for advice to the governor: If anything you said last week proves to be less than completely truthful, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.