Chris Christie is confronting the first major political crisis of his governorship this week, as leaked emails appear to reveal one of his deputies and a former political ally conspiring to cause a traffic jam near the George Washington Bridge in furtherance of a political vendetta. Megyn Kelly laid out the basics of the scandal on her Fox News program last night, followed by my commentary:
I said in the clip that the accountability element of Christie's response would be crucial, and today we saw it. The governor announced that he has fired the aide in question, and made clear that he will no longer consider his former campaign manager for the position of chairman of the state Republican Party. Christie clearly and unambiguously stated that he had absolutely no knowledge of the bridge scheme, calling it a "callous" act of "abject stupidity." He also explained that when this issue first arose, he asked his senior staff if his administration had any connection to the politically-motivated lane closures whatsoever. They all said no, including the woman who knew better. For her actions and dishonesty, she's now out of a job. In his press conference this afternoon, Christie was contrite, atypically humble, and took full responsibility for the malfeasance -- textbook crisis management. He also vowed to travel to Fort Lee (the impacted city) today to apologize in person to the Democratic mayor (who classlessly rejected the offer, then reversed himself) and its citizens. My thoughts on how this will affect his political career and likely presidential ambitions can be summed up in fewer than 130 characters:
Simple. If Christie cleans house & is telling the truth about his own knowledge, he's fine. If he's not being fully honest, he's in trouble.— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) January 9, 2014
If Christie is being fully truthful, this kerfuffle will blow over. Indeed, it could end up benefiting Christie, whose decisive response to a burgeoning political emergency over the last 24 hours has been impressive. It was also an object lesson in contrasting leadership styles. President Obama answers few questions from the press, blames others, fires nobody, and has even derided serious issues as "phony" once the immediate political risk passes. Christie's presser lasted two hours, during which time he answered dozens of questions, responding in detail to endless follow-ups. Again, how he emerges from all of this depends on his veracity. If he's telling the truth, and I happen to believe that he is, 'Bridgegate' will be a footnote. If he's not -- especially in light of his vehemence today -- he'll look like a pathological liar, and he can kiss any higher ambitions goodbye. Here are the first 15 minutes of his marathon statement and Q&A session. Spoiler: One answer you won't hear is, "what difference, at this point, does it make?"
A few stray thoughts on this. First, isn't it interesting to watch an energized press corps go after a chief executive? I'd almost forgotten what that looked like. Second, lefties have begun a #Bridgeghazi Twitter hashtag, which is appalling. Finally, the jerks who orchestrated and celebrated this bridge stunt seemed to think they were hurting the children of Barbara Buono voters. Guess who won Ft. Lee in November, geniuses? I'll leave you with unhinged nuttery from Christie's former opponent on -- where else? -- MSNBC:
Chrisite's Dem Opponent on MSNBC: Chrisite Runs 'Paramilitary Organization'— Noah Rothman (@NoahCRothman) January 9, 2014