John Dickerson looks at the pickle the governor has put himself in:
The hope with this kind of press conference is that by showing that you have nothing to hide, you rebuild credibility. But as you let it all hang out, you also build a Jenga tower—an impressive structure that raises the stakes. Christie made a lot of promises Thursday afternoon: He didn’t know about the episode; he had been lied to; the bullying wasn’t indicative of his administration; he was simply a longtime acquaintance of David Wildstein, the Port Authority official who took part in the closure, not a childhood friend; he didn’t condone a culture of retribution; he didn’t know the exact details of the supposed traffic study that was used as cover for the lane closures. If one of those turns out not to be true, then the entire structure comes crashing down.
Cassidy makes a similar argument:
In apologizing and taking responsibility for what emerged from his office, he did what had to be done. But in simultaneously putting the blame on a single staffer and saying he had no involvement whatsoever, he staked his career on the belief, hope, desperate gamble—call it what you want—that no new information will emerge to challenge his version of events. If Kelly, or anybody else, contradicts Christie and provides evidence to back up his or her story, the governor is toast.
My gut tells me it’s unlikely that Christie was genuinely unaware of and uninvolved, either in this specific lane closure or other scandalous acts of political retribution.
Remember, the breezy nature of the comically damning email exchange between his allies — “Time for a traffic problem in Fort Lee,” “Got it” — suggests this wasn’t a one-off kind of tactic. And when you look past Christie’s affect, and at the actual words he said during his press conference, you encounter a bunch of oddities and inconsistencies.
At the same time, Christie’s meta-handling of this whole thing — mocking the reporter who first asked about his involvement, brutally trammeling his advisers who are now free to dish, the abject apology and denial, the willingness to endure a nearly two-hour grilling — bespeaks either a real confidence in his innocence, severe denial or a pathological confidence that he can still get away with it.
David Graham imagines the best-case scenario:
If Christie is telling the truth—it’s hard to imagine he’d lie brazenly and publicly with a U.S. attorney and the state legislature breathing down his neck—he keeps his credibility. But what about his competence? How is it possible that one of his closest aides was running a rogue political vendetta out of his office, without the knowledge of the governor or any of his other top aides? That raises serious questions about Christie’s reputation as an effective, hands-on manager. How would such an executive function atop the federal government if he can’t even handle Trenton?
Tomasky has questions:
What was redacted (or can we just say censored?) from those emails and texts? Was this really “the exception, not the rule” in how the Christie administration tries to enforce political loyalty? We’ll presumably find out answers to these questions.
And if even Christie is telling the truth, that Wednesday was the first time he’d heard that the lane closures were a political act, all that means is that he went out of his way to make sure he didn’t hear it, which in turn means there was a grotesque abuse of political power that happened right under his nose and that he not only didn’t try to get to the bottom of, but tried to sweat it out until January 15. That’s some definition of leadership.