By Susan Lilley
As the news spills forth about the nasty political scullduggery behind the absurd and disruptive lane closures on the busiest bridge in the world in September, I become more and more fascinated with you, Bridget Kelly. The center of the cyclone. You, deputy chief of staff to a high profile governor with presidential aspirations. You, a wholesome-looking working mom who enjoyed a position of such exalted power that, if you liked, you could gleefully cause total chaos in a whole city full of people for the better part of a work week. And for what? Governor Chris Christie, your boss, was going to win that election anyway, but you and your cohorts could not resist putting the screws to Ft. Lee’s mayor, who dared to decline to endorse your candidate. Or maybe you had some other bizarre reason that has not come out yet. As I read your snarky correspondence with Christie appointee (and friend) Port Authority executive David Wildstein, I almost blushed for you. How private those messages were! Nobody was supposed to see that. But we did, Ms. Kelly. Millions of us.
As a teacher of literature, I can’t help but reflect on how little things change. There have always been henchmen very willing to do the dirty work for the king in order to keep his hands clean. As a mom, I am horrified at the senseless misery endured by so many families trying to get to work and the first week of school. Not to mention the delays in police response and emergency services. Your texts indicate that you briefly felt a bit of regret for the school kids caught up in such a mess, but your compadre Wildstein ended that by labeling these unfortunates as children of voters for the other side. Not that either of you know anything about their lives, who they voted for, or what they might be going through that week. Not your problem. Is this what you went into public service to do?
As a woman, I feel a deep and grim disappointment. As followers of politics, my husband and I often entertain ourselves with the notion that if congress and other positions of leadership could miraculously be transformed to a majority of females, things would work a whole lot better. In recent political battles, it is often the few women in congress that make bipartisan solutions (the few that have emerged) possible. Maybe we told ourselves that women were sort of morally superior, that the male ego is to blame for too many petty roadblocks to progress. I bemoan the lack of progress we have made in a fairer gender balance in congress and governorships.
Sure, I know there are corrupt women in this fallen world. Examples both famous and workaday are not hard to find. But really, Bridget Kelly, how could you? When I glanced at your (now defunct) twitter account, you seemed so normal, just like the busy and accomplished women with children and meaningful careers that I cross paths with all the time. I have seen some of your shocked colleagues in public service declare that this kind of irresponsible, destructive behavior is so unlike you. I cannot help but wonder what constellation of events or conditions caused you, having achieved the most high-profile and powerful position of your career, to come to this? Misguided loyalty to a demanding boss? Peer pressure from cold-hearted manipulators like Wildstein? No matter what a nice lady people say you are, the fact remains: you wrote those emails. You helped make that giant clusterf**k happen.
You, Bridget Kelly, have–only temporarily–sullied my lovely theory that more women in public life is the ultimate answer to many problems. And, to be frank, you almost ruined my day. But not as much as you ruined the days of untold numbers of innocent citizens trying to conduct their lives that maddening week last fall. It will be interesting when you finally come out of your house and face the music. We’ll be watching.