There are spectacularly bad days in politics - days when circumstances - often ones you created yourself - conspire to pants you publicly in front of your constituents, the media and anyone else who's paying attention.
For Chris Christie, it's one of those days.
The release of emails showing clear, irrefutable evidence of the involvement of Christie's inner circle in the closure of two lanes of the George Washington Bridge - creating a months-long headache for Fort Lee and it's not-Christie-supporting mayor - has confirmed pretty much everyone's worst instincts of Christie and New Jersey politics.
He's not making it better by his reaction.
Read on . . .
As I said on a comment in another diary, Christie’s December statements that he’d talked to his staff and had verified that his office had nothing to do with the closures, combined with the revelations of yesterday, leave only two possible scenarios:
A) Christie’s own staff lied to his face
B) Christie is now lying to everyone else
Christie is not acting like a man who just found out he’s been lied to.
There is no sensible reason Bridget Anne Kelly should have still been a public employee since about .02 seconds after these emails hit the public eye. They show naked malfeasance for petty, vindictive, partisan reasons which did real damage to some of the people of New Jersey. We’d already heard how the bridge closure hampered the search for a missing four-year-old. New revelations are already coming out about how it impacted response times for paramedics. More stories are no doubt on the way – you can’t pinch off a major artery for an extended period without damage.
Not to mention the lethal political damage the whole thing does to the Governor’s office, to say nothing of the future ambitions of the man currently sitting in it. The idea that the most notorious hothead in modern politics could find out that his own staff had torpedoed him like this and not have physically dragged Kelly out of her office faster than you could say “Judas” is just not credible.
Chris Christie is a bully - we've all seen it, more than once, directed toward anybody that got under his surprisingly thin skin. Public cut-downs and virtual "F-you's" have been the flair on his political suspenders since he first caught the public eye. So why - when his deputy chief of staff engages in public sabotage that would have earned the "T" word if her last name had been Khalil instead of Kelly - is he suddenly pulling into his shell instead of screaming at his staff until they start crying?
It’s been pointed out that Christie never seemed to have a problem finding a camera to talk to when he was outraged . . . until now. Witness how happy he was to yell at people on camera when they were asking about the bridge closures before. Suddenly, though, outrage is something you tell the world about in email, three hours later. That’s new.
Maybe up front, in-the-moment outrage is something you only direct at people who aren’t worshipping you enough to not ask hard questions – or maybe it's just for people who don’t have anything on you.
"Is it wrong that I'm smiling?" – unidentified person, in a text message to David Wildstein, director of interstate capital projects for the Port Authority, on the news of school bus delays due to the closureSo who is this “unidentified person”? Redacted, for the moment, but it makes you wonder. Christie’s reputation – until now – was for being an authoritative, no-nonsense straight shooter that ran a tight ship, having a lot of centralized control over operations. Suddenly his advisors are running their own plays all around him while he's blissfully unaware? It’s hard – and getting harder, the longer his weird reaction drags on – to think Christie wasn’t in the thick of this. There are still a lot of shoes left to drop – and some of them may well be Christie’s size.
Which may explain, in part at least, why Kelly wasn’t canned in the first second. Who knows what emails she could show the world - and the bridge closure may be the tip of an iceberg.
There have been questions asked about Christie’s push for charter schools, which so far has done little except cost local communities more while providing a windfall for donors. Hell, questions could be asked about a lot of things that have gone on in Christie's New Jersey. His image, for some reason, seems to have shielded him from at least some scrutiny for it all - but with the Fort Lee revelations, his credibility may have taken a fatal hit. If they could do that - just for the sake of petty revenge - what would they have been willing to do for actual benefit? This whole affair may bring out more dirt that would make Bridge-Gate look like the Good Old Days. No evidence for that, just speculation – but speculation that seems more plausible with every day, every hour, that Christie doesn’t start acting like Christie toward these staffers.
It's only going to get worse for him. Christie needs attention like oxygen, and he's not going to be able to get it now without uncomfortable questions being asked, anywhere he goes. That's going to grate on him - remember that notoriously thin skin. Expect to hear a lot of angry, Christie-esque soundbites directed at reporters and concerned citizens as the days go on. And yeah, that's going to make it better for him.
He never, in my opinion, had a shot at the Republican nomination in 2016, if only because he didn't spit on Barack Obama when he came to tour New Jersey after Sandy. But this is fast looking like it's the death knell for whatever political future the man did have.
Is it wrong that I'm smiling?