Yesterday, I wrote about the burgeoning Chris Christie scandal (please don't call it #bridgegate), involving the apparently retaliatory nature of several lane closings on the George Washington Bridge last September. Christie was accused of creating a traffic jam to get back at the mayor of Fort Lee, a Democrat who declined to endorse him in his re-election bid. Christie initially laughed off the allegations, claiming the lane closures were part of a "traffic study." My original first line for that blog post was "Governor Chris Christie may have shown how Jersey politics can rival the Chicago style," but I excised it because, well, the scandal was about Christie, not President Obama.
Nevertheless, perhaps I should have kept it. The petty, retaliatory nature of the lane closure reminded me of something the Obama White House might do, something like closing down open-air spaces or websites because of a partial government shutdown or even getting Tea Party groups audited. Now Christie has made a statement expressing shock , shock!, that something like this happened under his watch, using the kind of language of non-responsibility we're used to from the Obama Administration, a tactic acknowledged and praised by red teamer Erick Erickson.
Christie's full full statement, via Scott Shackford's post yesterday:
"What I've seen today for the first time is unacceptable. I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge. One thing is clear: This type of behavior is unacceptable and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better. This behavior is not representative of me or my Administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions."
For the first time, he learned it. Yesterday. Maybe he found out reading about in the Bergen Record! Or maybe he didn't see it until it hit the national newspapers! He is a big person, after all.
The excuse is ridiculous, with little merit. The traffic jam happened in September. Christie laughed off allegations that the lane closures were retaliatory. Only faced with private messages to the contrary did he finally muster an apology acknowledgement (and denial of responsibility!) The buck stops, somewhere else. Christie also received a resignation from his top appointed official at the Port Authority in December. Did Christie respond to that resignation by treating the allegations as possibly being with merit? By all accounts, no. He complained that Fort Lee has three lanes off the George Washington Bridge dedicated to it in the first place.
When Christie initially relayed the excuse that the traffic jam was caused by a "study," the governor should've displayed more curiosity about what was going on. If a government can implement a study on the first week of school that creates a massive traffic jam, what kind of limits on government power does the Republican actually believe in?
Did Christie really see the bridge scandal for the first time yesterday? If he's referring specifically to the private messages, that's very well true. But if he means to say it's the first time he's seen evidence that the lane closures at the GWB were retaliatory, that's either untrue or a display of how uninterested in being a manager and leader Christie really is. Jesse Walker explored more of what it means if Christie is telling the truth earlier this morning, while the governor is going to talk to the press again later this morning, at 11am, about the scandal.
More Reason on Chris Christie.