You probably don’t need me or anyone else to tell you that Chris Christie is in deep shit right now.
Politically he can survive the scandal involving collusion by some of his closest aides to partially shut down access to the George Washington Bridge on the New Jersey side, all as a means of petty retaliation against the mayor of Fort Lee. But it’s not going to be easy.
At best, yesterday’s revelations expose a Christie administration that’s rotten to its very core and make Christie himself appear hopelessly unaware of what’s going on right under his nose. At worst, they show that Christie’s most basic political judgment can’t be trusted and perhaps even that he’s a despicable monster who runs his office like a criminal enterprise and who was directly responsible for putting people’s lives in danger just to satisfy a grudge. Given Christie’s status within the Republican party and as someone with presidential aspirations who manages to be somewhat appealing to both sides of the aisle, what’s happening to him right now is a big deal.
The reason it’s a big deal and the reason it’s likely to stick as a scandal is simple: Like everything else about Christie, it’s bombastic and ballsy to the point of being genuinely shocking, and it’s incredibly easy to understand to the point of being stupid. There’s no illicit sex for people to shrug off as merely a personal matter and there are no complicated machinations that require a slide rule or a deep understanding of national or world events to fully appreciate.
There’s also not a lot of room for obfuscation or denial on the part of the people who exchanged the e-mails that would eventually lead to the whole thing being blown wide open. “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” is pretty succinct, specific and damning. The fact that that one line sounds almost comically like the kind of thing you’d hear in a mob movie — “Nice city you got there. Be a shame if something happened to it.” — just adds to the whole “Jerseyness” of this thing. It makes Chris Christie seem less like a presidential contender — or even the blustering bully his critics accuse him of being — and more like a full-on Tony Soprano, with his staff as his crew. If the New York Post isn’t already preparing a cover that shows Christie, Bridget Anne Kelly and David Wildstein running things out of the Bada-Bing, I’ll be stunned.
It’s true that most scandals these days don’t last, and if Christie is ready to take a sledgehammer to his administration and vanquish every single crony within it until he can prove to everyone that he’s taking this gross violation of the public trust seriously, then he may be able to come through this badly bruised but intact overall. That’s of course assuming he wasn’t personally involved in shutting down part of the busiest bridge in America just to fuck with his political enemy. But anything less than that and he’s toast. This one’s gonna be with him for a while if only because of the sheer audacity of it and the old-school brand of political corruption it represents.
He’s in seriously deep shit, and it’s not the kind of thing that washes off easily.
Update: Christie’s holding a news conference right now. So far the best quote from it, the one that promises to bring the specter of Nixon to an entirely new generation, is Christie saying, “I am not a bully.” Josh Marshall over at TPM is live-blogging it.
Update 2: Josh Barro points out the ways Christie’s screwing the pooch in his response today.
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