Skip to comments.Chris Christie 2016: A Bridge to Nowhere
Posted on 01/08/2014 3:10:34 PM PST by nickcarraway
To this point, Chris Christie has treated the George Washington Bridge closure story as a joke, and national reporters have regarded it as a minor irritation. The public release of e-mails among his staff changes all that. The e-mails prove that Christies loyalists closed the bridge deliberately as political retribution, not as a traffic study as claimed. They display an almost comical venality bordering on outright sociopathy. And they will probably destroy Christies chances in 2016.
The bridge story itself, while small in nature, reveals a political culture around Christie of people who have no business holding power. Bridget Anne Kelly, a deputy on Christies senior staff, e-mailed David Wildstein, a Christie appointee on the Port Authority, which runs the George Washington Bridge, instructing, Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee. The resulting hours-long traffic jams worried public officials and created a safety hazard. Wildstein proceeded to gloat over the punishment:
Is it wrong that Im smiling, the recipient of the text message responded to Wildstein. The persons identity is not clear because the documents are partially redacted for unknown reasons. No, Wildstein wrote in response.
I feel badly about the kids, the person replied to Wildstein. I guess. They are the children of Buono voters, Wildstein wrote.
Several things come together to make this scandal especially devastating to Christie. One is that its very easy for voters to understand: He punished a town because its mayor endorsed his rival. There are no complex financial transfers or legal maneuverings to parse. Second, it fits into a broader pattern of behavior, documented by the New York Times, of taking retribution against politicians who cross him in any way. There is, in all likelihood, much more. Mark Halperin and my colleague John Heilemann reported in their book about the 2012 campaign that Mitt Romney wanted to put Christie on his ticket, but his staff was stunned by the garish controversies lurking in the shadows of his record:
There was a 2010 Department of Justice inspector generals investigation of Christies spending patterns in his job prior to the governorship, which criticized him for being the U.S. attorney who most often exceeded the government [travel expense] rate without adequate justification and for offering insufficient, inaccurate, or no justification for stays at swank hotels like the Four Seasons. There was the fact that Christie worked as a lobbyist on behalf of the Securities Industry Association at a time when Bernie Madoff was a senior SIA official and sought an exemption from New Jerseys Consumer Fraud Act. There was Christies decision to steer hefty government contracts to donors and political allies like former Attorney General John Ashcroft, which sparked a congressional hearing. There was a defamation lawsuit brought against Christie arising out of his successful 1994 run to oust an incumbent in a local Garden State race. Then there was Todd Christie, the Governors brother, who in 2008 agreed to a settlement of civil charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission in which he acknowledged making hundreds of trades in which customers had been systematically overcharged.
The investigations also raised questions for the vetters about Christies relationship with a top female deputy who accompanied him on many of the trips.
The swirl of potential and already-proven scandals would be enough to sink an ordinary candidate. But Christie, as Ive argued before, is not an ordinary candidate. Hes an unusually vulnerable one, especially in a Republican primary. He suffers from a mix of ideological and regional vulnerabilities. Christies 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. Whats more, his brash Northeastern personality may play well among conservatives when hes abusing Democrats, but probably wont if and when hes abusing fellow Republicans. A Republican painting Christie as a philosophical and cultural alien would have a very, very easy case to make.
Yeah, Republicans aren't going to like this, either. What makes matters worse still for Christie is that his scandals would make him vulnerable in a general-election matchup. Mitt Romney managed to win the GOP nomination in 2012 despite some ideological vulnerabilities smaller ones than Christies, Id argue because he was the sole electable candidate in a field lacking any plausible alternatives. The 2016 field already looks to have several plausible Republican contenders. Christies path to victory always involved a desperate-to-win party Establishment circling around him. Why would they circle around a candidate teeming with corruption scandals, when they could instead nominate a more conservative alternative with a more attractive personal image? What reason, at this point, does any Republican have to nominate Christie?
Update: I linked above to a previous column I wrote expressing skepticism about Christie's prospects, but it's a lot to ask readers to click through after reading this entire column, so a couple points are worth pulling out. First, I did express a similar confidence that Mitt Romney had almost no chance of winning the party nomination four years earlier, and I was wrong. I'd argue that Romney won because he ran essentially unopposed. That is, actually running for president isn't the same thing as taking advantage of the free national publicity and future media career opportunities one can gain by announcing that you're running for president. The only actual opponent Romney faced in the 2012 primary was Rick Perry, who immolated in a painful, prescription drug-induced haze. Every other serious potential candidate -- Paul Ryan, Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, Christie -- declined to run.
Still, Romney did secure the nomination. There's an implied asterisk attached to all political prognostication: It can't be done with the same kind of precision that can be applied to policy analysis. Caveat emptor.
That said, I do believe Christie faces enormous, interrelated vulnerabilities. To a non-Republican, Christie's post-Sandy personal embrace of Obama in 2012, his issue deviations on Obamacare and guns, and his potentially large number of scandals look like separate problems. To a Republican voter, they are many aspects of the same thing: a man who can't be trusted. Anything can happen, but the combination of obstacles appears, at the very least, far greater than most analysts are figuring at the moment, and at the most, completely insurmountable.
Christie is a fat, handsome, big spending loud mouth.
I’m sure the bridge has a weight limit.
I also agree that RINO CC does not deserve higher office. I’d like to see this story harpoon his POTUS bid.
Good. We don’t need this oversized RINO running in ‘16.
Stick a fork in him. He’s done. Wasn’t going to get the nomination anyway but this is something that Obama’s stooges would have cooked up.
In the article on Romney...” because he was the sole electable candidate in a field lacking any plausible alternatives. “
That’s the author’s opinion. No where near the truth.
Hillary’s attacked dogs out in force today. Two possible opponents wounded in one day after announcing.
This didn't come from Hillary (or any Dem). They would want a vulnerable opponent, and would wait to use this in 2016.
Don’t know. If Biden doesn’t run she might unopposed.
Word missing “run”.
He would have to send a team ahead to check the strength of said bridge.
Cruz/Palin 2016. Who’s with me?
Who is the other one?
Palin's a big mouth but she's no worse than ANY of them.
Had this tagline for a while, vet.
Two words: Ann Coulter.
I’m a big mouth. Sometimes it’s a personality trait.
What chu talkin' 'bout, Willis?
Give us a clue. To do what?
Funny how these emails were leaked a few days after professional psychopath Hillary Clinton started her massive internet campaign for POTUS.
Clean out the swamp.
Bizarre that he punished the Mayor of Fort Lee for NOT endorsing him when the mayor is a Democrat. What did he expect? That is exactly the political norm. Endorsing someone of another party is what is unusual.
Crispy is going to go over in the South like a lead balloon.
That's just a campaign slogan. Do what in foreign and domestic problems? Or are slogans all there is.
I pegged Romney from the beginning, before the primaries, as inevitable and as the one Republican candidate who had no possibility of winning the election.
I sense the Bush’s hand in this. How the heck did someone get a hold of private emails ? The Bush’s still have deep ties with the security state.
Christie was Jeb’s big RINO competitor.
Christy Chris is practicing the presidential “I didn’t know.” Pretty good for a first effort but still a little polishing.
BOY I hope this ends any chance he has at being nominated; the RINO’s poster child. Even better would be resignation and/or prosecution.
This fat bastard and his staff are hardly the only sociopaths in elected office, heck, show me a politician that isn't a mental case.
He just got caught and the press wont cover for him.
Of course the neo communist pyschos in the WH and Congress will get a pass all day long, no matter what crimes they commit.
Maybe. Jury’s still out with me on Cruz. I’m just not very impressed. Depends on what happens over next year or two. Plenty of time. And I always love Sarah.
Cruz/Paul would have so much intellectual energy and presence on the campaign trail. Palin would be a fantastic head for the Department of Energy, or getting that Alaska Senate seat.
The fat slob came out today in favor of granting in state tuition to illegal aliens.
Lead a Conservative agenda, not a faggoty, liberal, gun grabbing, federal government expanding, homo-fellating, NSA police state agenda like the fatass from NJ would if the donut eating lardass were to ever become president, which he won't because he's too busy groveling on his kness before obongo and fellow communist, The Boss.
2) I pray this puts a nail in the coffin for him to run for POTUS.
3) New Jersey really seems to be the Soprano State!
4) I hope he is forced to resign and we never have to hear from the blob of crap again.
This psycho and dozens more like him would give a tuition break to a criminal alien but not a legal citizen from a state next door.
Guys like Christie need to be rounded up and put in a goddamned insane asylum, not be running States.
Zero tolerance for lunatics.
I just spit out my drink!!! :D
A democratic state house member asked a judge to release them...
All government email is open to the sunshine...unless you report to the brown clown on 1600 Pennsylvania street...
Why do so many people think that Sarah Palin would accept the second slot on a Republican ticket for the second time? Either she drives the bus or she stays home. Why subject her family to another round of that kind of feral liberal abuse to be the VICE-President?
I won’t vote for Rand Paul even as VP
-— Cruz/Palin 2016. Whos with me? -—
Works for me.