Touched by a scandal that could throw a monkey wrench into his 2016 Republican Presidential hopes and possibly his political career, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in a press conference declared he was “embarrassed…humiliated” and in as a manager in the dark about “some people on my team” seemingly slowing down traffic on the George Washington Bridge to get back at Fort Lee’s mayor for not endorsing him. Christie insisted he is “not a bully.”
The real impact of Christie’s comments won’t be known for hours. That’s when the all-important conventional wisdom sets in. And, also, whether as is typical in American politics reaction eventually settles into where it’s one party against the other with one party playing offense and the other playing defense.
Christie has many enemies in the Republican Party (called conservatives, who feel he is precisely who they do not want as Presidential nominee because he holds some moderate beliefs and has reached across the aisle). But there is a scenario where that could happen — and soon.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday said he was “embarrassed and humiliated” by the conduct of “some people on my team” over an unfolding political scandal, saying he knew nothing of their activities to apparently punish a local mayor by creating traffic jams in and around his community.
Christie, who apologized to the town of Fort Lee and the residents of the state at a lengthy news conference in Trenton, said he fired a senior aide at the center of the uproar involving the alleged abuse of authority that political commentators suggest could mean bigger problems for the potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016.
“I am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here regardless of what the facts ultimately uncover. This was handled in a callous and indifferent way,” he told reporters the orchestration of traffic jams near the George Washington Bridge through a transportation agency, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Christie gave anyone with knowledge of the incident — which exploded with the release of e-mails between top Christie aides on Wednesday — that affected Fort Lee residents, commuters, and apparently public safety over several days in September to come forward with information.
“I am responsible for what happens under my watch — the good and the bad,” he said.
But the governor said he had no knowledge or involvement of this issue in its planning and its execution.
“I knew nothing about this,” he told a news conference.
PREDICTION: His choice of words will be repeated and perhaps be tied in with Captain Schultz of the old World War II POW camp comedy (no joke) Hogan’s Heroes. Satirists will have a field day:
He said he was “digging in” and asking questions to find out what occurred.
Yesterday, as the scandal spread, it appeared Christie was already digging in — in a political bunker. He issued a four sentence statement that pleased no one. And the normally accessible Christie cancelled an event and almost seemed in hiding from the press. Many had started to count Christie out but, in reality, conclusions about his viability of a 2016 Christie presidential campaign will be better reached later today.
It isn’t unusual for politician in a scandal to answer in dribs and drabs and it isn’t enough so it goes on and on. (Note Richard Nixon, Anthony Weiner, Bob Filner, Gary Hart and many others). One press conference may not mean the end of the story — especially when investigations on several levels are in the offing. And likely lawsuits as well.
So far I haven’t found a clip of the whole press conference. Here’s the beginning via NBC News:
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Here’s a 10 minute chunk of his exchanges with reporters:
ABC News’ video:
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.