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Eugene Robinson:
You know a politician is having a bad day when he has to stand before a news conference and plead, “I am who I am, but I am not a bully.”

Frankly, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was unconvincing on that score Thursday as he attempted to contain a widening abuse-of-power scandal. Moreover, Christie displayed a degree of egocentrism that can only be described as stunning. His apologies would have sounded more sincere if he hadn’t portrayed himself as the real victim.

Paul Begala at CNN:
There's a great old saying that battle-scarred scandal managers love: "The dogs bark but the carnival moves on." It's the crisis manager's equivalent of "Take two aspirin and call me in the morning," meant to reassure the scandal-plagued public figure that the media and the public have short attention spans, and that the next twerking episode will distract folks.
But not with the Chris Christie bridge-closing scandal: This one's gonna stick.
The Star-Ledger editorial board:
Christie promised to apologize in person today to the mayor and people of Fort Lee who suffered through four hour traffic jams that went on for four days. This would include paramedics trapped in gridlock as calls came in of car wrecks, chest pains and a 91-year-old woman who suffered a heart attack.

Which is the right first step. But it's just the beginning: We need the redacted information in these emails to be fully exposed. We need the testimony of the governor's top officials -- including Kelly, Stepien and his old friend who resigned from the Port Authority, David Wildstein, who futilely tried to squash his subpoena this morning.

And we need a full accounting from the governor himself.

Much more below the fold.

The New York Times:

It’s good news that the United States attorney for New Jersey, Paul Fishman, has opened an inquiry into the matter and can make certain that all parties testify under oath. While the State Assembly has done a good job of investigating the Fort Lee scandal, it is important that the case be examined by a prosecutor’s office.

There are plenty of questions that Mr. Christie and his aides, current and former, need to answer.

Bloomberg's editors:
His 2013 re-election was the perfect opportunity to rise above his reputation as a petulant bully. Coasting to a landslide victory against an overmatched foe, the governor had every reason, and boundless opportunity, to be magnanimous. Instead, his most trusted senior staff -- and did it really end there? -- blocked the entrance lanes to the nation’s busiest bridge. [...]

“Mistakes were made,” Christie said at his news conference, at which he announced that he had fired his deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly. “I am heartbroken that someone I permitted into that circle of trust for the last five years betrayed my trust.”

Heartbreak is always sad, and mistakes happen. The petty vindictiveness and abject contempt for public welfare displayed by the governor’s top aides are, thankfully, more rare.

Dan Balz:
The fall came quickly for the brash governor. His reputation for blunt talk and his seeming enthusiasm for confronting anyone who disagrees with him always have been part asset and part liability. The worry for Christie is that the scandal over massive traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge, ordered by his own people, could tip the scales decisively in the direction of liability.

Two months ago, he was being touted as the nominal front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Now, his prospects for claiming the White House are clouded by controversy. His first real effort at damage control came Thursday, when he made a public statement, apologizing to the people of New Jersey and announcing the dismissal of two key members of his team. He then answered reporters’ questions for more than 90 minutes. It was a start in containing the damage, but only that. Investigations will follow, and no one can know where they will lead.

Jay Bookman at The Atlanta Journal Constitution:
Now, maybe it's true that under Christie, a deputy chief of staff on the job for less than a year has the authority to order a close friend of the governor to take such action. But in my experience, that isn't the way most political offices are run.

It's also hard to dismiss this as a rogue operation when it involved four members of Christie's inner-most circle, all of whom apparently bought into the scheme without reservation and even with glee. The governor said in his press conference that he had given no thought to the possibility that he had created a culture or attitude in which such bullying behavior would be perfectly acceptable, because he knew that he had not.

The evidence argues strongly to the contrary.

Jimmy Williams at US News & World Report:
Traffic has always been a political dynamic. Fix traffic problems and a politician can win re-election, just like former New York Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, aka Senator Pothole, who was known for excellent constituent services. Ignore the potholes and traffic jams and you'll lose. After all, if a politician can't get transportation issues right, what can he get done?

But Christie has a bigger problem than just potholes. He has, at the least, a staff that is mean, vindictive and malicious. They're political bullies. They acted on his behalf, whether he knew it or not. They acted like their boss. His staff became the boss. His staff became bullies because they were allowed to become bullies. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. It's one thing to have a single bully on the political playground. It's another thing when the bully is surrounded by his posse of little bullies.

Paul Thorton at The Los Angeles Times:
Our readers -- including one from New Jersey, but the rest from Southern California -- were not at all amused. They noted that people suffered real problems: Children couldn't get to school, Fort Lee's emergency services were slowed and some unfortunates no doubt missed appointments. Fort Lee's mayor was punished all right -- the town's residents even more so.
And finally, The Onion:
Do I seriously strike you as the type of person who would vengefully go after a rival political group who opposed my administration’s policies? And not only go after them, but also after anyone who is even remotely associated with them, essentially waging a fear campaign in order to systematically intimidate, isolate, and marginalize my enemies one-by-one?

C’mon, that’s just not me. Everyone knows that sounds nothing like me.

Really, anyone who has followed my career even the slightest bit over the years knows that the last thing I am is an overly ambitious and hypersensitive man with a penchant for antagonism and belligerence. I mean, it’s me we’re talking about here! Chris Christie! Not some ultra-competitive blowhard with deep-seated insecurities probably stemming from my own experiences being bullied as a child. That’s why this whole scandal is so silly. It’s like, everyone knows that’s the pretty much the exact opposite of what I’m like.

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