Friday Reads: #BridgeGhazi Scandal FalloutPosted: January 10, 2014
The #BridgeGhazi scandal is still dominating the news this morning, so I thought I’d surf around and see what the pundits are saying about it. I’ll leave it to you to post links to other stories you’re following in the comment thread.
As you can see, LA Times cartoonist David Horsey focused on Christie today. He also had some editorial comments.
As revealed by a series of email exchanges, three of Christie’s top aides closed down all but one of the traffic lanes at the entrance to the George Washington Bridge to punish the Democratic mayor in the nearby town of Fort Lee, who failed to fall in line behind the Republican governor in his recent reelection campaign. New Jersey commuters spent days stalled at the bottleneck, emergency vehicles were slowed down and one elderly woman died before she could be taken to a hospital.
In a two-hour news conference, Christie claimed he knew nothing about the scheme to exact political retribution by manufacturing a traffic nightmare. The three staffers have been booted, and the governor insists that he is shocked and saddened by their actions. Nevertheless, many people are skeptical. Even if Christie is telling the truth and the aides were not following his direct orders, his combative, in-your-face political style makes plenty of people assume the three were mimicking the bullying ways of their boss.
Though he has played the victim a bit too much, Christie has handled the crisis well so far. Chances are, he will survive this round of revelations (unless, of course, it turns out he is lying, in which case he can probably kiss the GOP nomination goodbye).
Raise your hand if you think Christie was telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in his lengthy press conference yesterday. Anyone? Anyone?
At U.S. News, Ken Walsh writes that It’s Just Beginning for Chris Christie.
What’s ahead for embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie won’t be pretty. Investigations. Lawsuits. Ridicule. Doubt. A credibility gap. And quite possibly severe damage to his prospects as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016.
Christie can recover. Consider what Bill Clinton did in overcoming charges of adultery and draft dodging during his 1992 Democratic presidential campaign, which ended successfully. Consider how Republican George W. Bush overcame allegations of youthful drinking and past drug use during the 2000 campaign, which he won. And consider how Democrat Barack Obama dealt successfully with a political crisis arising from the inflammatory and divisive views of his pastor in Chicago in 2008.
Christie’s scandal is different, and worse. It involves an apparent act of political retribution against the mayor of Fort Lee, N. J., because the official didn’t endorse Christie’s re-election bid last year. But the price was paid by everyday people: innumerable motorists who suffered massive delays when Fort Lee traffic lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge were shut down for four days last September, apparently at the instigation of Christie aides. The governor says he didn’t know about it at the time, and he has fired two aides whom he is holding responsible….In political terms, “Bridgegate” is devastating to Christie for a simple reason: It undercuts his image as an efficient if abrasive leader, and reinforces the impression that he is a bully.
But who doesn’t think Christie is a bully? A couple of days ago,
Beltway Bob Ezra Klein wrote, Chris Christie’s problem is that he’s really, truly a bully.
Christie inhabits a rare space in American politics: He’s a bully. He’s followed around by an aide with a camcorder watching for moments in which Christie, mustering the might and prestige of his office, annihilates some citizen who dares question him.
Almost everywhere Christie goes, he is filmed by an aide whose job is to capture these “moments,” as the governor’s staff has come to call them. When one occurs, Christie’s press shop splices the video and uploads it to YouTube; from there, conservatives throughout the country share Christie clips the way tween girls circulate Justin Bieber videos. “The YouTube stuff is golden,” says Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review. “I can’t tell you how many people forward them to me.” One video on Christie’s YouTube channel — a drubbing he delivered to another aggrieved public-school teacher at a town hall in September — has racked up over 750,000 views.
Now in Moorestown, Christie was hoping to create another such moment. After some introductory remarks, he opened the floor to questions. “For those of you who have seen some of my appearances on YouTube,” he cautioned, peeling off his suit jacket as he spoke, “this is when it normally happens.”
It’s not an accident that Christie emerged in a period when the Republican Party is out of power. His videos make them feel powerful at a moment when they’re weak.
The reason Chris Christie is so good at this is that Chris Christie is actually a bully. That doesn’t mean he’s not also a nice guy who cares deeply about his family and his constituents and his country. It doesn’t mean he’s not an unusually honest politician who’s refreshingly free of cant and willing to question his party. There’s a lot about Christie that’s deeply appealing. But there’s one big thing that’s not: He’s someone who uses his office to intimidate people and punish or humiliate perceived enemies.
Watch video examples at Wonkblog.
Other writers are beginning to discuss the legal consequences of the scandal for Christie and his staff. Ben Brumfield at CNN:
It may have seemed like a teenage prank at the time, but the blockage of bridge traffic as a possible act of partisan political revenge has put New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the middle of a serious legal stew.
And the fire underneath it is just beginning to heat up for the Republican presidential hopeful, as the state assembly plans to post online 907 pages of documents related to the case Friday.
State lawmakers questioned one of Christie’s allies on Thursday, a former state official implicated in the scandal. So far, David Wildstein has repeatedly refused to answer, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
The legislators charged him with contempt for his lack of cooperation. But the dam could eventually break as lawmakers dig in their heels, analysts say.
As long as Christie was telling the truth at a marathon press conference he held on Thursday, he should be able to step out of the caldron, analysts who spoke with CNN say.
That’s the key question isn’t it? And I think most people assume Christie was lying through his teeth yesterday.
“He was pretty specific about what he knew and when he knew it,” said CNN analyst Gloria Borger on The Lead with Jake Tapper.
But if any of it doesn’t jibe with other peoples’ stories, information provided in documents or clues that pop up, experts say Christie could get dragged into civil and criminal lawsuits.
One thing is certain. The legislative inquiry into the alleged misdeeds that led to the traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge is just getting into gear.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s one-hour-and-forty-seven-minute self-serving, self-pitying display of contrition on Thursday was a climactic act in a brazen cover-up that threatens to further unravel his political career.
Ever so thoroughly the governor scoured the thesaurus for words of apology, regret and painless self-flagellation while nervily playing the victim and mercilessly destroying the aide who played only a supporting role for the George Washington Bridge political revenge plot.
Christie needed blood to express his outrage to the public, so he drew it from deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly for the sin, the governor said, of lying to him. Perhaps, Kelly did lie, although it seems incredible that anyone would flat-out attempt to deceive an intense, emergency inquiry.
Regardless, Christie made roadkill of Kelly and his former campaign manager while wholly exempting the close pals who were central to the lane-closure conspiracy that caused four days of gridlock and dangerously slowed emergency response in Fort Lee. Pathetic.
Read the whole thing at the link.
As the story stands, Christie’s deputy chief of staff called for George Washington Bridge access lane closures that created a massive traffic jam in Fort Lee for four days in September — a move that many have written off as political retribution for Democratic Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich’s refusal to endorse the Republican governor’s reelection.
Maddow on Thursday presented an alternate theory, saying Sokolich’s endorsement “wasn’t that important.” Instead, she suggested the political payback was motivated by a tiff between New Jersey state Senate Democrats and the governor.
Maddow took viewers back to 2010, when Christie declined to reappoint a New Jersey Supreme Court justice, John E. Wallace Jr., for another term. The move left state Senate Democrats “absolutely outraged,” Maddow explained, and they refused to confirm any Christie’s nominees for Wallace’s seat.
Could Maddow be onto something?
By last August, Supreme Court Justice Helen Hoens, a Republican, was up for renomination. When state Senate Democrats signaled they would challenge Christie’s nomination, the governor said he wouldn’t renominate Hoens.
“I simply could not be party to the destruction of Helen Hoens’s professional reputation,” Christie said during an August press conference. “I was not going to let her loose to the animals.”
“That was an angry Chris Christie,” Maddow said. “So angry that he was doing something almost unprecedented in New Jersey: Yanking the tenure of a state Supreme Court justice, who he liked! That was an angry Chris Christie, furious with Senate Dems at a hastily called press conference that took place late in the day on Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2013.”
Read more and see video at the link.
More links in case you haven’t gotten your fill yet:
MSNBC’s First Read: A Bridge Too Far?
Bloomberg News: Christie Flunks Crisis Management With I Am Not a Bully
Chicago Tribune: Chris Christie for president? Fuggedaboutit.
ABC News: The Christie Cold War Begins