In the best possible light, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie built a top staff of lying thugs who threatened lives and safety to serve his political ends. If not, Christie is a lying thug himself.Mike Murphy:
My prediction? The whole thing will blow over. Sure, the media will howl for a week and the mayor of Fort Lee will spend the next two years darkly plotting ways to poison Christie’s good name in New Hampshire.Indeed. And that's exactly why it won't blow over. More politics and policy below the fold.
But Christie has already blasted the main chortling staffer in question. The circus will move on.
This incident does, however, give us an early peek at the likely dynamics of a Christie for President campaign.
Some critics think that Christie’s big obstacle in a GOP presidential primary will be ideology — that he will face trouble for allegedly being too comfortable with President Obama, and not comfortable enough with core conservative orthodoxy.
I think that misses the larger point, that Christie is all about persona. He is very popular because he is the anti-politician. He doesn’t ooze the bland, blow-dried niceties of the stereotypical politician. Instead, he is loud, blunt and pragmatic. At a time when a record number of Americans are totally fed up with politics as usual, this makes him uniquely attractive to many voters.
The question is how Christie’s hands-on, full-volume personality will wear with voters over time.
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.John Nichols:
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.
Despite the fantasies of the pundits and political operatives who imagine Chris Christie as some kind of moderate, he is more than sufficiently conservative to secure the Republican presidential nomination.Jonathan Chait:
By most reasonable measures, Christie is a strikingly consistent social and economic conservative.
So it is not ideology that is most likely to trip up Christie in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
It is his style. The New Jersey governor’s take-no-prisoners approach to politics has always been his greatest strength and his greatest weakness.
The swirl of potential and already-proven scandals would be enough to sink an ordinary candidate. But Christie, as I’ve argued before, is not an ordinary candidate. He’s an unusually vulnerable one, especially in a Republican primary. He suffers from a mix of ideological and regional vulnerabilities. Christie’s ideological heterodoxies include, but are not limited to, his decision to accept the Medicaid expansion in Obamacare and his fierce advocacy of gun control, either of which could be disqualifying in a contested Republican primary. What’s more, his brash Northeastern personality may play well among conservatives when he’s abusing Democrats, but probably won’t if and when he’s abusing fellow Republicans. A Republican painting Christie as a philosophical and cultural alien would have a very, very easy case to make.Chris Cillizza:
We've been skeptical in the past that this Bridge-gate saga would matter much to Christie as he looks toward 2016. But, the fact that it is now in his inner circle and looks entirely political makes it something he is going to have to address in a more comprehensive way than he has in the past. As recently as early December, Christie was joking about the closures; “I worked the cones," he told reporters. "Unbeknownst to anyone, I was working the cones." (The Newark Star-Ledger has a great timeline of Bridge-gate that's worth checking out.)Damn right it's serious. Serious enough to attract attention away from Obamacare. Rick Hampson (USA Today):
Molehills can grow into mountains in politics. This is now a serious problem for Christie.
The story on its face is bad enough. But it also feeds into the most negative perceptions of what the New York Daily News is calling "the bully boy governor,'' one famous for his quick temper and eagerness to put others in their place, on a boardwalk or a town meeting.ABC's The Note:
On Wednesday, the former U.S. attorney pleaded innocent to the lane closings, saying he was "outraged,'' "deeply saddened," misled by his aide and had no knowledge of the action.
But previously Christie reacted to the charges with characteristic hauteur. He not only denied the charges, he ridiculed them, saying sarcastically that yes, he'd moved the traffic cones himself. And instead of sympathizing with the motorists, he said he was "sauced'' to learn that the town that is the bridge's western terminus had three dedicated access lanes onto the span.
Those motorists, at least, are moving again. Christie's presidential bandwagon? Not so much.
Democratic State Assemblyman John McKeon criticized the governor on a radio program in 2010 and was surprised to get a handwritten note from Christie explaining his displeasure, something he said could be seen as threatening and also highlighted in a New York Times story last month that mentioned several examples of behavior that could be viewed as bullying.
“You would hope the head of any organization sets the tone for the people around him,” McKeon told ABC News, referring to the Christie staffers implicated in the scandal. “The utilization of government resources for political retribution, that is sacrosanct and it is something that should never, ever be tolerated.”
As for what this could mean for his future politically, McKeon said it could be “devastating,” not just for 2016, but for the rest of his governorship.
State as well as national Democrats will continue to pursue the story, trying to tie Christie directly to the scandal.
The deputy speaker of the New Jersey state assembly, John Wisniewski, vowed that the “investigation will continue.”
“Either he doesn’t know what’s going on in his front office or that there’s lying going on,” Wisniewski said at a press conference earlier in the day Thursday.
And it’s Christie’s answer to that question that could very well define his political future.