When I read Carter Eskew’s prescient Jan. 2 blog post, “Chris Christie actually had a bad year. Here’s why,” which included the idea that the bridge lane-closing story was serious and underreported, I admit that I dismissed Carter’s views because I did not believe that the office of the New Jersey governor would “shut down lanes of the George Washington Bridge . . . simply to retaliate against a public official that annoyed him.” Like Christie just said in his press conference, I did not think anyone would be so stupid as to create chaos on the open road and expect not to get caught.
I assumed at the time that Christie had the advantage of being innocent. Well, as all Insiders readers know, in politics being innocent is just an advantage, but not determinative. Now it looks like Christie might have the disadvantage of being guilty — which is also not determinative, but it is trouble. At the very least, it looks like the governor was in close proximity to the guilty party. In politics, proximity can be fatal.
So far, Christie has boldly accepted responsibility, apologized directly and taken decisive action to punish those who were involved. That is a good start, but there is a lot more to come. Very soon we’ll find out more about what the governor knew and when he knew it. We have yet to hear from the lawyers representing the commuters and local government officials who suffered as a result of the traffic delays. There will be plenty of aggrieved parties who are going to want some payback. We will also undoubtedly hear from those who, when confronted with legal action, try to strike a deal by revealing what they know, attempting to save themselves and blame others.
This is suddenly a serious situation, and one that I did not see coming. I figured there was no way a sophisticated governor’s office would pull a stunt like this: a dirty trick with thousands of innocent victims.
Part of the reason this is so bad is that one of the worst things you can do in politics is to play to your negative stereotype. Well, this incident reinforces Christie’s image as a bully, big time. His critics in the media will not let it go. Everyone settle in for a long stream of Christie news. This will impact his position in the Republican Party as we lead up to the 2016 elections. It will be interesting to see how the governor reacts to the new revelations that will almost certainly pop up as the investigation gets underway. There will be a lot more to this story.
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