Governor Christie’s problems are even worse than Eliana’s grim post suggests — and I don’t say that just because the press coverage here in Jersey, where Democrats are turning up the heat, is now unrelenting.
Back on December 23, Christie held an “Ask the Governor” townhall-style radio meeting conducted by the local station, NJ 101.5 FM. He was pointedly asked about the so-called Bridgegate scandal.
By way of background, when the GWB lanes that caused massive traffic delays were closed, the Christie-appointed Port Authority deputy director claimed, falsely, that this was done in connection with a PA “traffic study.” The “Ask the Governor” radio host, Eric Scott, asked Christie whether he had seen the study. The governor responded with the now-familiar back-of-the-hand gruffness he deploys when asked questions he does not want to answer: “No. What do I care?” (This can be seen on a video the radio station has released, at about the two-minute-mark of the 3.5 minute clip.)
Scott then pointed out the obvious: If there were such a study and Christie had seen it, that would put the issue to rest once and for all. The governor peremptorily dismissed this suggestion: “No . . . because they’d find something else.” According to Christie, it was all a manufactured political scandal by people out to get him.
And how did he know that? Because, Christie explained at another point in the radio meeting, he had already looked thoroughly into the matter with the help of his staff. “I’ve asked my staff to give me a full briefing,” he told Scott and listeners. “They’ve told me everything that we know. None of this makes sense; it’s all about politics. None of it makes sense.”
A few things to note here. Christie was first elected governor based on the reputation he cultivated for himself as a hard-charging United States attorney — a tireless investigator who never hesitated to take on the tough cases, ask the hard questions, and keep digging until he got convincing answers. As governor, he has portrayed himself as very hands-on in the Giuliani mold, intimately aware of matters great and small in the Garden State and able wonkishly to roll details off the tip of his tongue.
The only thing in the state that Christie is directly in charge of, though, is his staff. Over two weeks ago, he said he’d previously had his staff dig into the bridge controversy and provide him with a “full briefing,” at which he was satisfied they’d told him “everything that we know.”
Let’s assume for argument’s sake that Christie’s top aides — the ones he knows best, and who know him best — could conceivably have acted without his knowledge. Let’s also imagine that, after years of working closely with him, they would conduct themselves in a manner inconsistent with the climate he has created in his office. The questions remain: What kind of briefing did Christie get before December 23? Who gave him the briefing, what questions did he ask, and what evidence was he shown? And if his own appointees were claiming that the lane closures were over a traffic study, why was he simultaneously saying that the scandal “makes no sense” but that he had no interest in seeing the purported traffic study that caused it? How could a former top investigator content himself with a “full briefing” that did not include the phantom “traffic study”?
The governor is scheduled to speak at a press conference later this morning. It will be interesting to see if he addresses any of these questions.