The In-Tray Swarms the Christie Presser

This lunchtime, Governor Christie insists he couldn’t pick Mayor Sokolich out of a police line-up. A reader writes:

Hm. Plausible, just barely: he meets a lot of people, after all. But “until [he] saw [Sokolich’s] picture last night on television,” he wouldn’t have been able to pick him out of a lineup? Last night? How many months has this bridge scandal been going on? Color me unconvinced.

Another:

Governor Christie was once the US Attorney.  His Chief of Staff, Chief Counsel and Deputy Chief Counsel were all former Assistant US Attorneys.  All of them know how to investigate misconduct.  It is absolutely inconceivable that Christie or these senior staff members did not recognize that the answers to the swirling allegations would be found in the emails.  Either they learned  the damning facts right away and sat on them or they said to each other “we better not go there because we will only find trouble”.   There is no good explanation for the Governor here.

Another:

It seems to me that two simple questions should pry the lid off this: “Governor Christie, your staff told you the lane closures were part of a traffic study. Did you ever ask your staff or the DOT to produce the results of the traffic study, or even a contract ordering the study? If not, why not?”

Another:

Here’s something to add to the “obvious pattern” you talked about.

We know that Christie was focused on running up the score by the fact that he scheduled a special election for Senate (at great expense for the State) a few weeks before the general election in November to make it less likely that Cory Booker supporters (Democrats) would show up at the polls and reduce his margin. For a man that intent on maximizing his margin, it is easy to believe that he would be vindictive against those who refused to go along.

Another:

I’m surprised no one seems to be talking about the fact that this traffic sabotage occurred on 9-11. Isn’t the GWB a high value target? And wouldn’t the people of NJ be more sensitive to, and stressed out by, something so out of the ordinary? Not to mention the need of first responders to be on high alert. Is it just a coincidence that they planned this for the week of 9-11 or was that part of the effort to inflict as much pain as possible on Fort Lee residents?

Another:

The emails that were turned over were heavily redacted. Who redacted them? They were obviously reviewed by someone. Why didn’t alarm bells go off? I don’t get it. And the person who reviewed them did not hear the bells going off. I’m not buying Christie’s explanation that he had no idea until 9AM yesterday.

That would have made his statement that he’d lost sleep the last couple of nights a little off, don’t you think? Unless he knew this was coming.

When Did Christie Know?

Barro has a hard time believing that Christie was completely in the dark until yesterday:

Here’s what I don’t buy. Let’s stipulate that this hare-brained scheme was hatched by Christie’s staff and appointees without his knowledge. Therefore, he didn’t know about the lane closures or their motivations before Sept. 13, when Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye (a New York appointee) started complaining about them. There have been 117 intervening days, during which Christie accepted the resignations of two of his Port Authority appointees who are caught up in this scandal. I assume he and his top staff have had a lot of conversations during that time, trying to figure out exactly what happened in Fort Lee. Did his people really manage to keep him in the dark for that entire time such that he’s shocked today? If so, what does that say about his skills as a personnel manager?

After watching Christie’s presser, Barro asks four questions. Among them:

The governor says Kelly lied to him and said she had no involvement in the bridge lane closures. But Kelly wasn’t the only person who knew Kelly was involved. In August, she emailed David Wildstein, Port Authority Director of Interstate Capital Projects: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Wouldn’t Wildstein have told the governor, in the process of tendering his resignation, that Kelly had told him to do it? Bill Baroni, Christie’s top appointee at the Port Authority, was also checking in with Wildstein about whether “Trenton” was happy with the handling of the closures. Why didn’t Baroni tell the governor his staff had known?

Josh Marshall points out that many Christie loyalists must have been involved:

Clearly, a lot of different people in Christieland were in on this, at least in the sense of knowing it was going on, if not taking a direct role themselves. And the tone is pretty much universally one of joking about it or enjoying it rather than in any sense seeing it as a major inconvenience they were trying to rectify. … The emails do not suggest a bad apple each at Port Authority and the Governor’s office up to no good. This is a range of Christie staffers and appointees sitting back observing and chuckling as a big multi-day traffic snarl unfolds.

If Christie didn’t know about this there must have been a concerted effort on the top of his top people to keep him in the dark.

Tomasky sees three possibilities:

1. He’s telling the whole and complete truth in yesterday’s statement, that this was the first he’d known that the lane closings were political;

2. He was in on it from the start and helped mastermind it or at least winkingly approved it;

3. The middle position, which is that he didn’t have prior knowledge but he learned it was political some time ago—not long after it happened, say—and is now lying about having just learned.

If it’s two or three, I’d say you can forget not only his presidential ambitions. He’ll have to resign the governorship. Right? Hard to see any way around it. To have lied to your people for months about something like this, if that’s what he did, is a pretty good definition of being unfit for office.

Allahpundit is on the same page:

[A]t this point, given his emphatic denials that he had anything to do with the lane closings, what’s the alternative to resigning if a smoking gun emerges proving that he did? He’s not going to stand at the podium, cop to having lied baldfaced to the world about his role in punishing the public in order to retaliate against a political enemy, and then say, “Oh well, see you tomorrow.” His whole shtick is that he’s a straight talker who tells the truths that more polished politicians are too afraid to tell. He can’t admit to having lied to protect himself and then go back to business as usual. So what’s the alternative to resignation if he gets caught red-handed? Which, I guess, is another way of saying that the odds of him getting caught red-handed are verrry low or else his denials wouldn’t be so emphatic.

He Hasn’t Gotten Around To Anger Yet

original

A few thoughts about Christie’s presser (which continues to go on). He’s a pro. He stood there and took the heat, kept on message, revealed an impressive grasp of detail, explained what he’s been doing these last few days, and declared himself “betrayed.” The general assertion is that he could have had no direct responsibility for creating a culture in Trenton that gave us “callous indifference” to the welfare of the citizens of New Jersey and what he called a rogue political operation run by his own deputy chief of staff. He was poised; he did not seem too rattled; he took responsibility for the blow to New Jerseyans’ confidence in the integrity of their government. He claims, moreover, that he had no idea who the mayor of Fort Lee was. He had no idea he refused to endorse him. So he had no motive to do anything nefarious. So it remains a “mystery” to him.

As long as he’s telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, I think he did about as well as anyone in that pickle could. But … one thing truly stuck out to me. Christie fired Bridget Kelly without talking to her since the emails emerged. That does not seem to me a chief executive entirely interested in how this actually came about. If I were in his position and believed I was betrayed to the point of going out there and telling untruths, I would want a face-to-face with my deputy chief of staff to understand the full context, and get to the bottom of it. Firing her summarily without even talking to her seems a weird act of abrupt distancing. I’m not sure it’s even wise. Sure he was right to fire her. But why do so in such a way as to alienate a close staffer without giving her a chance to explain herself? What happens if she returns the distancing herself? She will likely be subpoenaed and we’ll find out.

I was also struck by Christie’s insistence that Kelly was fired because she lied to him. Not because she engaged in petty vindictive politics. But because she deceived him. He claimed that she had never deceived him previously in any way. Again, his core issue is what was done to him, not what was done to the inhabitants of Fort Lee. What he cannot explain away, it seems to me, is the tone of the emails which suggest that this kind of thing was so routine it could be talked about almost in code and another official would instantly respond “got it” to a mere suggestion of “traffic problems.” That’s not a rogue moment, it seems to me. It’s part of an obvious pattern. The vindictiveness is not a leap; it’s a premise. The idea that Christie had no responsibility for creating a culture in which that premise was unremarkable is, to my mind, deeply implausible.

But he sure has put himself out there on a very long limb.

His administration, he tells us, as he told us for months, has “nothing to hide.” He wants to be judged now for expeditiously firing the responsible people, not letting this kind of petty, vindictive abuse of power spread in the first place. He is, he insists, a total victim in all this, blindsided, shocked, surprised. And he nailed that performance.

But if I were Christie, I’d be a little worried about Bridget Kelly. He threw her under the bus without even seeing her face to face. He’d better be damn sure she has no way to implicate him as well. And, after being blindsided by one bunch of leaked emails, what happens if he’s blindsided by more?

I give him a high grade for this performance. If it contains even an ounce of inaccuracy, he’s toast. And this thing will doubtless go on. And subpoenaed emails and texts are unpredictable things.

The Character Of Chris Christie, Ctd

As I absorb the on-going presser by Christie, here are Toobin, Gergen, Davis, Anderson and I tossing around the bridge scandal on AC360 Later last night:

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A reader dissents:

I am a long-time reader and devotee, but I don’t understand your hostility towards Christie. I’m admittedly biased, of course. As a New Jersey Democrat who’s fallen hard for this big guy (daylight between us on social issues not withstanding), I know that I have a very particular point of view on the governor that is not universally shared. He’s our hometown flavor of blunt and brassy, I get that. But your post on the emails by Bridget Anne Kelly is so vitriolic and unfair that I felt I had to write and say so.

Christie, the man himself, is “a vindictive, petty, egomaniac” and a “bully… or a liar” because someone who works for him did something contemptible? You’re kidding me, right? That’s the threshold for summarily trashing a guy’s character? Is there any evidence whatsoever that the governor ordered or directly approved these actions? Any evidence at all that he even knew about them? Did you or did you not rightly defend the president from the all of the low-blow character assignation stuff that played the same song on Reverend Wright, William Ayers, Khalidi, etc.? Do any of those people make President Obama a racist, terrorist, anti-semite? Of course not.

There are plenty of reasons not to want Christie as president without having to rabbit-punch a guy who, in my personal experience, is a pretty big-hearted and compassionate fella. Until there is hard evidence to the contrary, please try to keep the transitive personal character stuff to a minimum, okay?

Another differs quite a bit:

Honestly. The bottom line here is that Christie knew about this. The “staffers” in question include people who have been friends of his since fucking high school. These are not random underlings US-POLITICS-CEO-CHRIS CHRISTIEgoing off on a lark. There is no way he didn’t know. Now, that can’t ever be proven unless Christie was stupid enough to be recorded talking about it with these staff members, but come on.

His denials shouldn’t pass the smell test in any sort of sane and accountable democracy. That our media (and citizenry! ye gods) is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on a case like this – which is more clear cut than anything short of the Nixon tapes or a semen stain on a dress – just speaks to how deferential we are to power and how little the needle of our collective outrage is moved by even obvious corruption and abuse of power. (See also e.g.: The torture scandal and many officials’ “I can’t recall” statements when questioned about what they knew and when. We routinely let all sorts of powerful officials get away with this kind of denial-of-the-obvious-facts, but that doesn’t make it right.)

Another echoes Toobin:

Chris Christie is in very deep trouble. In fact, he’s toast. Those who poopoo the implications of this scandal underestimate a very important part of this scandal: that it’s one that’s very easy for voters to understand. This isn’t some complex money-laundering scandal involving complex financial instruments. It is, instead, as you rightly noted, an intentionally-constructed traffic jam that inflicted suffering, pain, and perhaps death on his own constituents.

Another is on the same page:

Did the Christie-bridge debacle kill anyone? That’s what I want to know.  Did anyone die in an ambulance trying to make it to a hospital?  Did anyone die in the ER waiting for a delayed doctor to get there?  Did anyone’s child suffer preventable brain damage for these same reasons?  My guess is that this may well have happened, and if it did, and a reporter or political operative finds the evidence, Christie is in for a world of hurt, and deservedly so.

Update from a reader:

An elderly woman was stuck in an ambulance and didn’t make it.

Another reframes the media debate:

The Christie scandal, in my opinion, really shows what’s wrong with the press today. A governor either took some petty revenge on his own constituents (with possible devastating results), or was too incompetent to know that his staff was doing so (or however you want to frame this), and the media speculates about his chances for 2016.

Shouldn’t people speculate about his chances to still be governor in 2014? Not to throw out an old trope, but if I started “exacting revenge” at work people wouldn’t so much speculate about my chances for a promotion as much as they would speculate about when I was going to be fired. Isn’t there any responsibility by the media to actually discuss the role of governing, as opposed to just politics?

On that note, many readers are taking apart Christie’s tenure:

I’d be interested if your “Democrat” reader who calls Chris Christie “our asshole (but) he gets things done” could actually tell us what Christie has gotten done.  Property taxes are still rising, and thanks to Christie’s cuts in aid to property-tax payers, homeowners are paying more out of pocket than before Christie.  We lost out on millions of federal dollars for Race to the Top thanks to Christie’s administration missing a deadline. We lost out on even more in federal dollars and economic grown when Christie unilaterally cancelled the new tunnel to New York City.  During Sandy, Christie’s administration moved millions of dollars of trains into the flood zone and they were destroyed. Last spring, thousands of taxpayers had their refunds held due to … no one knows.  Christie has slow-played medical marijuana at the cost of thousands of people’s health, blocked marriage equality, spent more resources on investigating abortion clinics, and pulled us out of the regional greenhouse gas initiative. At the same time New Jersey’s employment rate is higher than any of our neighbors in the North East, and our recovery is slower.

The only real “success” is getting federal aid for Sandy recovery, but it’s not like we weren’t going to get that anyway.  What did hugging Obama and slamming the Congress actually get us?  Then the aid was slow in arriving, and the multi-million dollar fund he and his wife created for Sandy recovery still hasn’t given away half of what it raised. What exactly is it that Chris Christie has gotten done?  Besides being “our asshole.”

Another reader:

Remember, this is the governor who nixed a desperately needed trans-Hudson train tunnel to establish his bonafides as a cost cutter with national Republicans. It would be a delicious piece of poetic justice if trans-Hudson traffic jams proved his undoing.

Another drills down on the tunnel:

Not only was the Access to the Region’s Core project a New Jersey priority, it was a national priority. One of the reasons there’s only two trains to DC at 5-ish in the afternoon is that there is no more space in the existing tunnels. If Amtrak had the cars and locomotives I’m sure there could be a few more trains. A 5:15 and a 5:30 to start. Christie did it to punish all those awful people who want to go to vile disgusting Manhattan, lots of them not stereotypical straight white guys. Pity he got reelected. Amtrak is busy planning on spending more money to build something that will have slightly less capacity and, this is my opinion, sucks compared to Access to the Region’s Core. ARC was going to be in “Macy’s Basement” with long escalator rides to 34th Street. With more or less direct connections to the subway. So all the people who used it, who would be getting on the subway, wouldn’t be in Penn Station. The Gateway plan has the southern most platform at approxiamately 30th Street and all the people who want the subway will have to walk across Penn Station. And the ones who don’t will have to walk across Penn Station instead of taking an escalator ride to 34th and 35th. I think the new entrances were on 35th. They may have been on 36th.

Update from a reader:

Your readers are wrong on the tunnel project. The problem with ARC simply is that it ended in a dead-end cavern, that did not connect to any of the other city transit infrastructure. It was utterly limited from a transportation point of view, and if you speak to any infrastructure expert, they will summarily agree. The other thing is that the tunnels would have been exclusively for NJ Transit, thus again limiting the connectivity of the network.

I agree that Christie canceled it for the wrong reasons, but he did the whole region a favor as many of the alternatives proposed (including the Gateway project), are much better as they connect to Penn Station, thus allowing Amtrak, NJT, etc to use the tunnels.

Of course the ideal would be for what was called Alt-G (the ultimate ARC tunnel was Alt-P in the various plans chosen), which would have also had a tunnel from Penn Station to Grand Central, integrating the whole transportation network. Alas, that will never happen.

Another sees a more systemic problem:

I started as a low-level employee at a big New Jersey state agency, and the governor is running them into the ground. They’ve been forcing out upper-management-level scientists at the DEP, professional engineers at the DOT and NJTransit and replacing them with real-estate and business cronies. These cronies are remarkably stupid and have implemented policies that have caused the state to go from being a model in the areas of efficiency and safety to laughing stocks in the country. I have a few private examples, but the biggest public one is the NJTransit train car flooding scandal.

When Jim Simpson took over as chairman of transit, one important directive he put into place is that no agency is to publicly acknowledge the existence of climate change. Or a need for additional infrastructure spending. This is supposed to only be for the public, but the internals have been run even worse. As Sarah Gonzales of NPR reported recently, before Hurricane Sandy, there was no storm preparedness plan in place for Transit or the DOT except for a two-page, fully redacted document. The MTA had considerably more planning done, for a much smaller area, and a comparable population. The fully redacted document was eventually unredacted (you can read it, there was no reason to be redacted except for surreal secrecy and ass-covering) and was depressing in how crappy it was. In interdepartmental presentations, our departments have again put presentation of how “well” we reacted to Sandy over acknowledging mistakes and fixing them.

Either he, or his picked cronies are pretty awful in how they are managing state agencies. There’s a huge brain drain now, as people (like me!) flee to other jobs because of how dysfunctional it is. If he becomes president, be prepared for more crappy cronies getting positions of power and then abusing it because they’re assholes.

(Photo by Paul J Richards/Getty)

The Best Of The Dish Today

Senate Chairman Of Transportation Committee Calls For Investigation Into George Washington Bridge Lane Closures

My own provisional view, for what it’s worth, is that the “fuck-the-Serbian” scandal is a pretty damn serious one for Chris Christie. I sure hope his “shocked, shocked!” statement today is completely truthful (if not he’s toast), but even having to dress down some of his closest aides for “unacceptable” and “completely inappropriate” behavior casts a bad light on his judgment and, yes, character. You can’t distance yourself from the culture in your closest circle.

But the other reason I think this will sink in is because there are few things that people hate more than traffic jams. What Christie’s closest aides did was create days of traffic jams for ordinary citizens because of a petty internecine feud. That makes them raging assholes in the minds of most normal, sane people who have ever driven a car. And they are assholes.

Then there’s the question of tone. Christie’s deputy chief of staff emailed: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Who is she, a rejected minor character in “House of Cards”? Then this, when Christie’s peeps find out that children are late for school because of their “traffic problems”:

“Is it wrong that I am smiling?” Mr. Wildstein texted Ms. Kelly.

“No,” she texted back.

“I feel badly about the kids,” he texted.

“They are the children of Buono voters,” she said.

This is Sorkin-esque.

Here’s what I want to know. Who misled Christie so he was caught out in a lie/factual inaccuracy by denying all of this not so long ago? And what will happen to the assholes not already fired? How Christie responds in the next few days will be very revealing – either for the good or the bad.

Today was the day when the distinction between Buzzfeed and the New York Times became a lot blurrier; Frum and I duked it out some more on the potential impact of legal weed on poor minority populations; I pondered the morality of Obama’s troop surge in Afghanistan; and the power of prayer and meditation in keeping you mentally sharp notched up another study.

The most popular post of the day was The Character Of Chris Christie. Next up was The NYT Follows Buzzfeed.

See you later tonight on AC360 Later and in the morning.

(Photo: Traffic moves over the Hudson River and across the George Washington Bridge between New York City, and in Fort Lee, New Jersey on December 17, 2013. By John Moore/Getty.)

The Character Of Chris Christie, Ctd

US-POLITICS-CEO-CHRIS CHRISTIE

The more I think about the culture that Christie created in Newark Trenton among his top staffers the more disturbed I am. Maybe that’s why Henry Kissinger loves Christie so: he reminds him of Nixon. Still, this is the Dish, so a reader sticks up for the governor:

Calling New Jersey politics “Soprano-style” is like explaining what a word means by using it in the definition. There are books written about this kind of corruption (hell, one of them is even called The Soprano State) and this kind of action is par for the course. As a lifelong New Jersey resident, the only difference is that the person involved in this happens to be a major national political figure with the worst case of presidential aspirations. Most of the previous New Jersey political shenanigans end up being a one-off punchline in a late-show monologue or footnotes in political history books.

You ask: “Is he a bully? Or a liar? Or both?“ He’s an asshole. More importantly for the people who want to get anything done in New Jersey, he’s our asshole. I may not like all of his politics and antics as a solid Democrat, but I respect that he gets things done and doesn’t think bipartisanship is a dirty word – as opposed to our soundbite driven, do-nothing Congress. In this age of swinging-dicks politics, it pays to be represented by someone who is eager to pulls theirs out.

I’m not going near that metaphor for obvious reasons. For the most part, though, readers are piling on Christie:

Back during the Hurricane Sandy aftermath, there was the whole debate over whether Congress was moving slowly on funds because the area affected was prone to corruption. Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma said, “Everyone was getting in and exploiting the tragedy.”

Here is Christie responding to the vote delay (not Inhofe directly): “I think, unfortunately, folks are putting politics ahead of their responsibilities,” he said. “It’s absolutely disgraceful. … It’s why the American people hate Congress.”

So now we have Bridgegate, which to those of us out west seems much more corrupt than it may actually be because mobility is much more a part of our lifestyle. If you drive 20 miles to the grocery store, or 50 to a high-school football game, a guy who can get away with closing a highway and city seems as corrupt as Karzai or Putin. Good luck selling that in Iowa.

Another reader:

I loved the comment from Christie’s staffer that all those kids on the buses were kids of Buono voters. I guess that implies that only Democrats send their kids to public schools? Wow.

Another sees a neglected story within the story:

The excerpts you highlight from the Christie administration are, indeed, disturbing. Something else I found outrageously offensive: the repeated references to Fort Lee Mayor Lee Sokolich’s ethnic background, including calling him “the little Serbian.” (Sokolich is Croatian, as it turns out, but it’s the intent I’m getting at, not people’s inability to distinguish between two distinct South Slavic peoples.)

If government officials referred to, say, a Jewish politician as “the little Jew” or incorporated his or her religious/ethnic/cultural identity into demeaning and dismissive comments in other ways, I’m guessing that would be a huge deal and would draw significant attention. Shouldn’t that be the case here as well?

I think anti-semitism has a more disturbing history and connotations than anti-Serbianism, but we’ll see.

(Photo: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is interviewed by Gerard Baker (out of frame), Editor-in-Chief, Dow, Jones & Company, and Managing Editor, The Wall Street Journal, at The Wall Street Journal CEO Council, November 18, 2013 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, DC. By Paul J Richards/Getty.)

Traffic On The Road To The White House

Christie responds to the bridge scandal:

What I’ve seen today for the first time is unacceptable. I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge. One thing is clear: this type of behavior is unacceptable and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better. This behavior is not representative of me or my Administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions.

Ezra reacts to the story:

It’s entirely possible that Christie didn’t know very much about the bridge episode. It might just be the product of the culture he’s created, or permitted, to arise around him. What’s dangerous for Christie, though, is that now every political reporter in the country will begin believing rumors of his punishments and hunting down evidence of his retaliation. And things Christie was able to do before to wide applause — like berate a schoolteacher and then have his staff upload it to YouTube — will begin feeding a very different kind of narrative.

Ambers weighs in:

The fact that Christie’s deputy chief of staff believed it was morally permissible to cause pain to innocents in order to retaliate against a perceived slight, without seeking his permission, and then refused to own up to it, tells us something about the culture that Christie creates around him. She assumed the boss would be okay with what she did. And so did many other Christie advisers, including his campaign manager. And since Christie denied having anything to do with the bridge study, he apparently has fostered a culture where it’s okay to lie to the boss in order to protect him.

Sean Davis expects the revelations to seriously damage Christie:

Most people understand that politics ain’t beanbag. There’s a certain amount of rough-and-tumble, back-and-forth backbiting that’s expected from the kind of people who choose to spend their lives trying to accumulate as much power as possible. As a result, backroom maneuvering to remove some political privileges enjoyed by one’s opponent probably wouldn’t draw a second glance. But that’s not what Christie’s top aides did. They deliberately chose to target innocent civilians:  moms and dads trying to get to work on time, school bus drivers trying to get children to school, first responders trying to take ill people to the hospital.

It doesn’t matter who you are:  that type of behavior is inexcusable. Nobody likes the guy who intentionally abuses his power in order to indiscriminately punish people just trying to get through the day.

Barro’s related remarks:

One of the key raps on Christie is that he’s a “bully” and that he engages in naked power politics. That rap hasn’t hurt him with voters — until now — because they perceived Christie as bullying people who deserved to be bullied and using strong-arm political tactics to make New Jersey’s government work better. Christie’s governing style led to bipartisan agreements on budgets and employee benefits reform, and the targets of his ire were unpopular: teachers’ unions and distrusted municipal officials.

But now we’re seeing an example of Christie’s team doling out punishment in a way that was both incompetent and petty. This isn’t just about the Christie administration engaging in unseemly retributive politics; it’s about them being bad at it.

Chait sticks a fork in Christie:

Mitt Romney managed to win the GOP nomination in 2012 despite some ideological vulnerabilities — smaller ones than Christie’s, I’d 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. Christie’s 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?

David Graham pushes back:

Perhaps this will be the end of Christie’s career, but it’s hard to see how anyone can tell at this point, and there are several reasonable, and equally speculative, reasons this may blow over. Here we have a regional dispute that—contra Chait—is fairly arcane for non-locals: He closed down a few but not all lanes of a bridge that managed by a bi-state agency? Huh?. Iowans probably care even less for B&T folks than Manhattanites. Everyone already knows Christie is a bully, and it’s hard to see how many more people this will convince. And most important of all, there are almost exactly two years until the Iowa caucuses.

Nyhan’s view:

On the one hand, it’s important not to overhype the significance of events like this to ordinary voters, very few of whom are paying close attention to the jockeying among potential 2016 candidates. The problem for Christie is that his principal asset in a Republican primary is an aura of electability. That aura may now start to dissipate along with his previously impressive favorable/unfavorable ratings, which were already looking more like those of a conventional politician. Moreover, widespread coverage of the bridge controversy could renew fears among elites about other potential skeletons in his closet and embolden GOP rivals and operatives who oppose his candidacy. Research by political scientists suggests that those party elites play a critical role in choosing the party’s nominee. If Christie is not seen as the most electable candidate, he’s unlikely to get much traction given his previous ideological heterodoxies.

Erick Erickson calls the intentional traffic jam on the Jersey bridge “routine hardball politics that Republicans and Democrats alike engage in at the local level”:

But there’s more here and it is going to be the problem that haunts Chris Christie. I’m ambivalent on his run for the Presidency. But I don’t see him getting that far for the very reasons underlying this issue — he and his staff operate as divas. I have had Congressmen, Governors, and the staffers of Congressmen and Governors tell me horror stories about dealing with Christie’s people. All of them seem to dread it.

Larison expects the scandal to blow over:

The pathetic thing about all this is that it will probably have little or no effect on Christie’s presidential ambitions. Many people are already declaring that this marks the demise of a future Christie campaign, but I have a feeling that the story will be received very differently inside the GOP than it is by everyone else. It will probably be treated as a political “hit” by hostile media, and partisans will begin dutifully repeating claims that the story isn’t that important, or that it’s old news, or that it is irrelevant to the state/country’s real problems. That seems likely because that is what partisans usually do when one of their party’s stars is accused of some wrongdoing.

Ramesh’s take:

I think Christie is going to have to do something more to get some distance from this scandal (and not just for the Serbian- and Croatian-American votes). If he does, I think this is just a blip for his 2016 campaign.

Alec MacGillis joins in the speculation:

I don’t believe this is necessarily the end of Christie’s presidential hopes, as Jonathan Chait argues—I am constitutionally averse to making predictions pro or con prospects with three years to go until the Iowa caucuses. And I’d also caution against overstating the facts at hand here: Christie’s people did not “close the George Washington Bridge,” as some reports are now suggesting—they shifted two of Fort Lee’s three rush-hour access lanes to the main flow of Interstate 95 traffic, thus causing horrific backups in Fort Lee but easing the main flow onto the bridge from I-95. It was, in that regard, a devious surgical strike.

But, we now know, too devious for its own good. There is something going down today—and it’s Chris Christie’s standing in the field of 2016 contenders.

Finally, Josh Marshall points out that these actions were completely unnecessary:

All year last year it was clear that Christie was set for a massive win. So just think how needless this was. Whether he did it or his aides did, this was an effort to get a Democratic mayor to endorse him. A Democratic mayor. No one expects members of the opposite party to endorse you, though many did.

Now, there’s some sense in which Christie didn’t just want and need to win. His 2016 presidential strategy rested on racking up a big number, somewhat along the line that George W. Bush did in his second term as Governor of Texas. And this even more so in a blue state. But at the end of the day, just in the crassest and most cynical terms, there was simply no reason to do this.

The Character Of Chris Christie

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Holds Election Night Party

Perhaps it is no big surprise to discover that governor Chris Christie is a vindictive, petty egomaniac contemptuous of the people he serves. But it’s hard to avoid that conclusion when you’ve pored over the new tranche of emails that show how he and his staff made life miserable for a large number of New Jerseyans – and, yes, trapped unnecessarily in traffic is misery, even when you have the gorgeous scenery of the George Washington Bridge to absorb. The point was punishment of a mayor who didn’t endorse the governor, whose re-election was cruising for a landslide victory in any case.

The small details of the email exchanges between Christie staffers are a little insight into the mindset of the men and women Christie surrounds himself with. It’s not a pretty picture. The few that leapt out at me:

“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Bridget Anne Kelly, one of three deputies on Christie’s senior staff, wrote to David Wildstein, a top Christie executive at the Port Authority, on Aug. 13, about three weeks before the closures. Wildstein, the official who ordered the closures and who resigned last month amid the escalating scandal, wrote back: “Got it.”

What strikes me about this is the Soprano-style archness of it all, the sense of total impunity in vindictiveness, as if this is the way politics is always played in Christie-land. When the traffic jams orchestrated by Christie’s staff snarled up even school buses, we get this:

“I feel badly about the kids,” the person replied to Wildstein. “I guess.” “They are the children of Buono voters,” Wildstein wrote, making a reference to Barbara Buono, the Democratic candidate for governor, who lost to Christie in a landslide in November.

“I guess.” Fuck the kids – let’s get even, when we have no real need to. Christie has more than one problem here. He has been revealed as a deeply petty man, willing to sacrifice the public good to pursue narrow political vendettas – not exactly a qualification for a president. But he has also repeatedly denied all of this. Is he a bully? Or a liar? Or both?

(Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)