NORMAN — What kind of politician is Chris Christie? If you buy Christie’s explanation at a news conference Thursday, the New Jersey governor is a victim. He is the victim of a scheming, lying aide and a scheming, lying old high school friend he appointed to the Port Authority. And because the investigations are just getting started, he may learn of other scheming, lying members of his administration who have driven this poor man’s reputation into a ditch.
Christie insisted that he knew nothing of a vindictive plan to shut a couple lanes of traffic in Fort Lee, N.J., near the George Washington Bridge to punish a mayor who declined to support the governor in the recent election.
“I am who I am, but I am not a bully,” Christie implored.
Do you believe that? Time will tell as more is uncovered.
Either way, it is instructive to note that even at this political low point, Christie spent more time bemoaning how he was lied to than empathizing with the thousands of New Jersey and New York residents harmed by this petty plot. The bridge is a major artery connecting people to jobs and routing all sorts of commerce — not to mention its role for life-saving ambulances that were delayed by the traffic gridlock.
Christie has fired his deputy chief of staff and his former campaign manager, both people who would have been important players in his expected bid for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.
The deputy chief had sent an email “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” The Port Authority appointee replied, “Got it,” and shut down the lanes. In subsequent emails, the two banter with a not-yet-identified third person about how the lane closures would discomfit New Jerseyans who had voted for Christie’s Democratic opponent. The mayor of Fort Lee, a Democrat, had declined to endorse Christie as governor. That’s the leading theory for why his town was singled out for this treatment. For now, let’s take the governor at his word that he had no idea what his inner circle of aides was doing. “What did I do wrong to have these folks think it was OK to lie to me?” he implored, rhetorically, at his presser.