It’s almost like the old adage about burning down a village to save it. As the continuing political crisis swirling around New Jersey Chris Christie continues to unfold, his main line of defense that he never knew what his aides were doing continues to undermine his previous image. The latest: it’s now being said that he had no idea his aides had sent out a memo mercilessly attacking former appointee David Wildstein’s credibility — even raising issues about problems Wildstein had with a high school teacher in high school.
It’s the same defense: the Governor had no idea… The problem: it sandbags Christie’s previous image of a take charge leader and strong administrator. Increasing, his defense is boiling down to “I didn’t have a clue.”
The memo from Gov. Chris Christie’s office attacking former appointee David Wildstein’s credibility landed with a thud. It was a striking and deeply personal broadside coming from a chief executive of a state, and even his allies called it a mistake.
Not just that: it seemed so petty and so totally negative given the fact Christie had previously praised Wildstein. In short: it actually hurt his credibility, not Wildstein’s and you could see the impact from the thumbs down press coverage.
But one important person hadn’t seen the missive ahead of time: the governor himself.
Christie’s aides did not run the document – which took the extraordinary step of highlighting incidents from Wildstein’s high school days – by the governor before they sent it out, according to two people familiar with the matter. Instead, someone tucked the high school lines into a daily briefing email to the governor’s supporters, and blasted it out earlier than planned. Another round of unflattering news coverage ensued.
The uproar over the memo illustrates Christie’s struggles over the past month to regain his political footing amid a swirl of scandal. Until so-called “Bridgegate” erupted a month ago, he enjoyed a reputation as a politician firmly in control – of his well-honed public image, his second-term agenda in Trenton and the roadmap to the White House he intended to follow over the next three years.
It’s almost as if the Christie has been replaced by the anti-Christie.
The aura of authority surrounding Christie has given way to a feeling among his aides and allies that they are operating in new and unsettling territory, reacting to new twists in the scandal instead of driving events themselves.
His policy goals and his political plans have been jeopardized by twin probes of the lane closures from Fort Lee to the George Washington Bridge that emails indicate an aide and ally orchestrated as apparent political payback. Christie, who blamed the debacle on wayward staff, has had to craft a legal strategy at the same time his office is conducting an internal review of what happened.
As the Governor’s office continues to use as a defense the Governor being clueless, you have to agree: it’s politically clueless to not think that voters will look at this and wonder “If this is what a state Christie administration looks like, what would a national Christie administration look like?”