If you have been following the story of the George Washington Bridge lane closures last September (and if you haven’t, here’s a timeline), it’s pretty hard not to conclude that Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) is in a bit of a pothole.
First he laughed off allegation that the lane closures were political retribution for the mayor of Fort Lee’s refusal to endorse him for re-election. He made jokes — “I was the guy putting out the cones” — or some such hilarity. Then he was in the flat denial stages and mocking the reporters who kept asking him about it. Now that it’s been revealed that his deputy chief of staff was thick into it, he’s come out with the “I was lied to!” line.
If you give him the benefit of the doubt and accept the last point — that people did this sort of thing under his nose without him knowing about it — that doesn’t speak very well of his management style. After all, the person who sent out the smoking gun e-mail — “Time for some traffic troubles in Fort Lee” — was Bridget Ann Kelly, his deputy chief of staff. That’s not an intern or a low-level administrative clerk; Ms. Kelly doesn’t work in a cubicle. And if the governor did know about the closure and has been lying about it since September, he’s got a lot of explaining to do. So far he’s shown that explaining and apologizing is not his strong suit.
Either way, whatever chances he had for getting the GOP nomination in 2016 are now problematic. Frankly, I never really thought he had much of a chance to begin with; the GOP bases out in the hustings would never forgive him for being nice to President Obama or showing signs of being a moderate from the East Coast, even if it is New Jersey. On the other hand, the hard-core Tea Partiers probably liked his bully-boy performances; they’ve been lapping it up from Rush Limbaugh for years, and this bridge story is the way they like to see tough-guy politicians kick some liberal ass.
We’ve seen politicians of all parties come back and win from political oblivion before, but I’d be impressed if Mr. Christie can fully recover from this.
Bonus: Jon Stewart’s opening last night nails it.