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“Brazen Arrogance Bordering On Amusing”: Christie-Brand Leadership: The Buck Stops Over There

About a week ago, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) sat down with CNN’s Jake Tapper, who asked about the governor’s “Bridgegate” scandal. The Republican presidential hopeful made it seem as if the entire fiasco had nothing to do with him.

“I’m the governor; it happens on my watch,” Christie said. “But you can’t be responsible for the bad acts of some people who wind up in your employ.”

A day later, the Garden State governor told the editors of the New Hampshire Union Leader, “I’ve learned to be less trusting and ask more questions, first off. The fact is my general nature is to be a trusting person.”

All of which led to yesterday’s Christie interview with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, who asked about the scandal that’s helped drag down the governor. From the transcript, by way of Nexis:

KELLY: So far there’s nothing tying you to giving the order in the bridge gate scandal.

CHRISTIE: Nor will there be.

KELLY: But the case is not yet closed and so some say, what if you get indicted? Are you a risky bet?

CHRISTIE: No, the U.S. Attorney said in his press conference weeks ago, that there will be no further charges in the bridge matter. He said that affirmatively three or four times. This has been 15 months of investigation and there’s been no connection to me because there is no connection to me. I had nothing to do with it, knew nothing about it and nor will there be evidence come to the contrary because it just didn’t happen.

The more the governor says the scandal has “nothing to do with” him, the harder it is to take his defense seriously.

Indeed, looking back at Christie’s comments to Jake Tapper, note that he refers to his former aides – now under criminal indictment – as people who “wound up” working for him, as if the governor showed up at his office one day and discovered some random people who just happened to somehow end up in his administration.

The truth is far more straightforward. Some of Christie’s top aides conspired to punish some of Christie’s constituents because a local mayor failed to endorse Christie’s re-election. These Christie administration officials abused their powers – allegedly to a criminal degree – in Christie’s name.

“There is no connection to me”? C’mon. Even if one is inclined to accept the governor’s explanation at face value – Christie was simply too ignorant of what was happening around him to be held responsible – clearly the scandal has at least some connection to him, given that this was his team acting in his name.

What’s more, there’s also the possibility of a more direct link. David Wildstein’s lawyer said two weeks ago that the governor “knew of the lane closures as they occurred” and that “evidence exists” that proves it.

In last night’s interview, Megyn Kelly also reminded Christie that two-thirds of his own constituents do not believe he’d be a good president. The governor replied, in reference to New Jersey residents, “They want me to stay. A lot of those people that 65 percent want me to stay. I’ve heard that from lots of people at town hall meetings, ‘Don’t leave,’ and ‘Don’t run for president because we want you to stay.’”

Christie also probably believes they were saying “Boo-urns.”

To be sure, the brazen arrogance borders on amusing, but the notion that New Jersey voters are so in love with Christie that they can’t bear the thought of him moving to the White House is plainly silly. As of two weeks ago, the governor’s approval rating in his home state was down to just 35%.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 19, 2015

May 21, 2015 Posted by | Bridgegate, Chris Christie, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Chris Christie Is Not The Victim”: The Governor Accepted Full Responsibility But Not An Ounce Of Blame

You know a politician is having a bad day when he has to stand before a news conference and plead, “I am who I am, but I am not a bully.”

Frankly, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was unconvincing on that score Thursday as he attempted to contain a widening abuse-of-power scandal. Moreover, Christie displayed a degree of egocentrism that can only be described as stunning. His apologies would have sounded more sincere if he hadn’t portrayed himself as the real victim.

A bit of background is needed: During his successful reelection campaign last fall, Christie — shown by polls to be a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, should he decide to seek it — tried to run up the score by winning endorsements from elected officials across the state, Democrats as well as Republicans.

The mayor of Fort Lee, the town on the New Jersey end of the George Washington Bridge to New York City, declined to give Christie his support. Shortly thereafter, Christie’s deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, sent an e-mail to an official at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — the agency that controls the bridge — that said: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.”

The e-mail went to David Wildstein, who was installed at the Port Authority by Christie and has known the governor since high school. He replied to Kelly: “Got it.”

Four weeks later, on Sept. 9, Wildstein ordered the closure of two traffic lanes approaching the bridge from Fort Lee, ostensibly to conduct a traffic study. This may sound like a minor inconvenience, but the George Washington Bridge is one of the most heavily traveled in the country. Closing the lanes caused hours-long traffic jams in Fort Lee for four straight days, snaring commuters in hopeless gridlock. In one widely reported incident, an elderly woman died of cardiac arrest after emergency responders were delayed by the snarl.

Further e-mail traffic involving Kelly, Wildstein and Christie’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien — mostly using their personal e-mail accounts, not their official ones — showed unalloyed glee at the mess Wildstein had created. Finally, a Port Authority higher-up discovered what Wildstein had done and reversed the order.

All along, Christie had ridiculed the suggestion that there was any political motivation in the lane closures. On Thursday, faced with proof to the contrary, he apologized and said he had been “betrayed” by staff members and associates he believed he could trust. “I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team,” he said.

Christie announced that he has fired Kelly — not because she helped create a maddening and dangerous situation for the people of Fort Lee but because she lied when Christie asked all the members of his senior staff whether they had any involvement in the affair.

That was the central message of Christie’s nearly two-hour performance before reporters: I was betrayed by people I trusted. I’m the victim here.

The whole episode “makes me ask . . . what did I do wrong to have these folks think it was okay to lie to me,” Christie said. He described his principal emotion as “sadness” at the betrayals by associates to whom he had shown loyalty — and from whom he expected loyalty in return.

The governor accepted full responsibility but not an ounce of blame. “Politics ain’t beanbag,” he said, but “that’s very, very different than saying that, you know, someone’s a bully.”

But is it really all that different? Christie maintained that he never sought the endorsement of Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich — never even met him, actually — and therefore had no reason to want him punished. What, then, would make his deputy chief of staff and several of his closest political associates think otherwise?

If Christie is truly in the mood for soul-searching, asking how his aides could tell him such lies should be secondary. The more urgent question is what Christie might have said or done to make these loyal lieutenants conclude it would be appropriate — and a lot of fun — to torment the people of Fort Lee because of the mayor’s refusal to pledge fealty.

Federal prosecutors are reviewing the whole affair. One obvious question is whether other officials who declined to endorse Christie faced retribution of any kind.

If voters see Christie’s pugnacious, in-your-face political persona as refreshing, he has a big future. If they see it as thuggish, he doesn’t. In that sense, you’re right, Governor. This is all about you.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 9, 2014

January 11, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie, Public Safety | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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