The Press On Christie’s Presser

The NYT dug up old clips of Christie acting like a bully. Recent events make them much more damning than they were previously:

Anne Marie Squeo spells out why the scandal is so devastating:

During a press conference, Christie said, “I am who I am, but I am not a bully.” And maybe by Webster’s dictionary standards, he isn’t abusive or intimidating per se. For sure, he has strong positive attributes –genuine, smart and pragmatic. But when you start listing the characteristics most closely associated with Christie, it’s hard not to find the words pugilistic and caustic are front of mind. … [Christie] says he had nothing to do with Bridgegate, and no evidence has been released to suggest otherwise. But his personal brand makes it easy to believe he was and that’s the kind of culture he developed and rewarded. And that’s the jam he needs to get out of to have a serious run at the White House.

Cillizza thought the presser went well:

It became clear as the news conference wore on (and on) that Christie and his team had decided beforehand that he was going to stay at the podium until no reporter (or anyone else) in the room could think of any more questions. That seems like the right approach — get out everything you can in a single day and make clear that you are open and ready to answer whatever is asked of you. As the presser wore on, some of the more “traditional” Christie began to peek out — he could have done without his answer on knowing David Wildstein in high school — but we still think politicians are better off going long rather than short when it comes to press conferences called to address controversies.

Josh Green isn’t so sure:

One school of thought in professional crisis management is that it’s best to come clean all at once: Say everything you know and answer reporters’ questions until they run out. That was obviously Christie’s approach, and it didn’t serve him well. The direct, forceful statement and list of actions he delineated at the beginning petered out into standard-issue political dodges and passive-voiced buck-passing. “Mistakes were made,” he said at one point. The longer Christie talked, the less he sounded angry and resolute and the more he sounded as if he were making excuses. It became harder to believe that he could have been ignorant of what his closest staffers were up to. The famous Christie narcissism also reappeared when he began referring to himself as a straight-talker and touting his achievements—and this, too, undercut the force of his opening statement.

Jonathan Bernstein explains how the scandal hurts Christie’s presidential chances:

I saw several pundits yesterday dismiss the idea that voters would still be focused on this scandal two years from now. They’re right — as far as it goes. … But what those pundits are missing is that the presidential campaign doesn’t begin in 2016 with the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. It began months ago, with the invisible primary.

That’s the competition to secure support from key party actors, including politicians, party-aligned interest groups, campaign and governing professionals, formal party officials and staff, activists, and the partisan press. In effect, it’s the efforts of these party actors to coordinate and compete over the leadership of the party.

The invisible primary helps to structure, and often determines, what happens in the nomination battle.

Douthat adds:

When I’ve written before about Christie’s very plausible path to victory in ’16, the bedrock under my analysis has been a sense that the institutional party — and not just the Wall Street money — sees him as by far its best bet to take back the White House, and will donate and organize and endorse accordingly. Now a traffic scandal, even one with this one’s juice, is not going to make the G.O.P.’s donor class suddenly fall in love with Rand Paul or Ted Cruz (or Rick Santorum or Mike Huckabee). But it might make them look anew at Marco Rubio (who had a tough 2013, but just gave a good speech on poverty) or Scott Walker, or pine for the probably-not-gonna-do-it Jeb Bush. This is the big danger for Christie in this scandal, the shadow lapping at his ambitions: Not that Iowans or South Carolinians decide they can’t trust him (they probably aren’t paying attention), or that conservative activists sharpen their knives for him (they were doing that anyway) but that his party’s machers no longer see him as far and away the strongest horse.

Kleiman asks why Christie hasn’t spoken to Kelly:

Chris Christie, former prosecutor, wants to know what’s going on, but he’s so offended by having been lied to that he doesn’t call Kelly on the carpet and say, “OK, Bridget. You screwed up big time. Your job is on the line. Who the $#%* told you to pull this stupid %$#*ing stunt? Tell me the truth, tell me all the truth, tell me the truth right now, or you’re dead to me from this minute.” Srsly? Either he didn’t want to know what she would tell him, or he knew already and didn’t want to hear it.

MacGillis wonders who will speak out:

Will the scorned aides seek payback? Christie is generally known for his loyalty to his closest aides and confidantes, and the favor is mutual. That is why no one had any doubts that Baroni, say, would end up in a nice spot after stepping down from his $290,000 gig at the Port Authority. But so dire is Christie’s current spot that he went a bit heavy on the condemnations of his implicated team members, repeatedly lacing Kelly for “lying” to him and, remarkably, disputing the notion that he and Wildstein were high school pals by all but declaring Wildstein a teenaged loser—whereas Christie, he reminded reporters, was “class president,” Wildstein “didn’t travel in the same circles.” Would you like to add anything, David?

Allahpundit smells something fishy:

I find it hard to believe that Bridget Kelly is the mastermind of a revenge operation that extended to Christie appointees in the inner circle and at the Port Authority, especially in the middle of a reelection campaign. Even if Kelly wanted to punish the mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing her boss, it’s mind-boggling to think that various members of Team Christie would have played along knowing that exposure could have jeopardized his reelection bid and presidential chances. It’s one thing for the candidate himself to be that reckless; it’s his life, after all. It’s another thing for subordinates to do it to their superior. That being so, how likely is it that Kelly, Stepien, and Wildstein would have instigated this retribution without any of them so much as mentioning it to him? They’ve briefed him on this before, at length, and no one said anything? Ever?

My take here.