The 2016 presidential election is officially underway as we witness the first huge issue for the Republican front-runner, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Opponents from both right and left are barraging him over Bridge-gate, and we will soon see how much intestinal fortitude the big man really has.
Cutting through the hype, here is a frank analysis:
1. Obviously, if Christie covered anything up, his presidential aspirations end immediately. Far worse, if he ordered, or agreed to, lane closures on the George Washington Bridge for political reasons, he would face impeachment, and possibly indictment.
Assuming Christie didn’t know anything, the abject stupidity of those who closed lanes on the world’s busiest bridge for political retribution may not be the dumbest thing ever, but since it could affect world history, ranks in the top three.
Here’s the kicker: if anyone were going to be blamed for the immense gridlock, it would have been Christie himself. Even the most non-political person knows closing lanes on the GW Bridge is an order that can only come from the top.
So let’s recap: Here’s a plan that engages in retribution that hurts your own guy, gets you fired, and will possibly land you in federal prison. Brilliant.
2. It was totally unnecessary. The re-election strategy was sound: Tout bipartisan support in the presidential campaign. So what if some didn’t “play ball?” The endorsement of Fort Lee’s mayor has never affected national politics. Christie was going to win in a landslide, so anything jeopardizing that was simply idiotic.
Much like Richard Nixon, Christie was a shoe-in for re-election, so why do anything that could derail the campaign and, ultimately, the administration? Whether rooted in paranoia or revenge, both actions show an arrogance bordering on psychotic.
3. Christie’s staff showed an unconscionable lack of foresight. Common sense tells us that some other high-ranking officials knew what had transpired, even if they weren’t involved. If their mission was to insulate Christie, they were woefully wrong. These things can never be kept under wraps, as it’s usually not the crime but the cover-up that’s the most damaging.
A trusted adviser should have told the governor everything so that a press conference could have been held before the election, shedding light on the situation, firing those involved, and apologizing. Christie would have been in front of the scandal, managing it on his terms and preventing it from spiraling out of control. Instead, the story has a life of its own, with lingering questions about “how much he really knew.” Ironically, had Christie done this, he would have won by an even bigger margin.
4. The floodgates are open. Legitimate or not, attacks are coming from every direction. Before Bridge-gate, these wouldn’t stick because Christie’s track record and brash charisma were enough to rebuke opponents. But that doesn’t cut it anymore. Christie is bleeding, and sharks from both parties are circling, putting him on the defensive for the foreseeable future.
5. Christie hasn’t really been tested: he had universal support after Hurricane Sandy; faced a Democratic legislature, so expectations for success were low; squared off against a weak opponent for re-election; and got lucky when facing a beleaguered and unpopular Jon Corzine in 2009, when it was a good time to be Republican.
Times like these separate the men from the boys. How Christie responds will determine if higher office remains viable.
6. Double standards abound. The left claims this is worse than the IRS scandal, in which the agency targeted conservative political activists, and some on the right want to give Christie a pass because “he didn’t know about it.” They’re both off-base.
Christie supporters can't have it both ways. If they exonerate the governor because they believe he was kept in the dark, the same courtesy must be extended to the president, since there is no hard evidence that he knew about the IRS actions. Yet the right continues to blame Obama for what transpired.
And while any form of political retribution using taxpayer-funded entities is flat-out wrong, closing traffic lanes doesn’t remotely compare to targeting opponents via the IRS. Yet the outcry on the current scandal is disproportionately greater than the IRS debacle. Go figure.
To those on the right pounding Christie in his weakened state (because he “isn't conservative enough”), congratulations. You just made Hillary the biggest winner of Bridge-gate.
The road for Christie may become a bridge to nowhere. But if there is one man capable of not just surviving but beating the scandal, it’s Chris Christie. His say-it-like-it-is style has earned him loyal supporters, but it’s his penchant for telling the truth and taking risks which most shun that should earn him something else: our trust.
I, for one, still like the ring of “President Christie.” Keep fighting, governor.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, Freindly Fire Zone Media. Read more reports from Chris Freind — Click Here Now.
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