Right now, I'm watching New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's press conference regarding the George Washington bridge fiasco. He is pissed alright. But he is confronting this head-on and showing his anger, for good or ill, and Obama might take some lessons from him. Most assuredly, he is not letting the whole scandal fester and get uglier and uglier by the hour.
Obama habitually waits for things to boil over and then frantically tries to cover up the saucepan after the whole stove is already a huge mess.
Christie is talking talking talking... how long is this press conference going to go on?
Larry McShane and Leslie Larson report in the New York Daily News:
An unusually contrite Gov. Christie emerged Thursday to offer an apology for the George Washington Bridge traffic scandal — and to fire a top aide, insisting he had no knowledge of her actions and was "blindsided" by the damning emails publicized Wednesday.He's still talking, and I've had two cups of coffee already.
“I come out here today to apologize to the people of New Jersey,” said Christie. “I apologize to the people of Fort Lee. I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team.”
The governor then announced the immediate dismissal of Bridget Anne Kelly, the top aide linked directly to the bridge lane closures she boasted were retaliation against Fort Lee, N.J., Mayor Mark Sokolich, who failed to endorse the GOP incumbent last year in his re-election campaign.
“I terminated her employment because she lied to me,” Christie said bluntly.
Christie had since September insisted his staff was in no way involved in the traffic tie-ups and ridiculed questions about the “Bridgegate” scandal.
A media horde descended on the Statehouse in Trenton for Christie’s first public appearance since the scandal was linked to his administration.
The first reporters and camera crews arrived at 7 a.m., and the room was soon packed to capacity.
Just moments before the press briefing was slated the start at 11 a.m., sources told the New York Times the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, a post previously filled by Christie, will open an inquiry into the controversial lane closures.
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Kelly and a long-time Christie pal appointed by the governor to the Port Authority were caught in an Aug. 13 email exchange planning the roadway retribution against the mayor. “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” read the email from Bridget Anne Kelly. “Got it,” responded David Wildstein, who went to high school with the governor — and was appointed by Christie to a $150,000-a-year position as Port Authority director of interstate capital projects.
The resulting shutdown of two traffic lanes from Fort Lee to the George Washington Bridge caused massive traffic tie-ups for four days in the small northern New Jersey town.
The gridlock also slowed emergency response times for local ambulances, including one responding to a Sept. 9 call for an unconscious 91-year-old woman — who later died.
Christie, speaking in a calm and direct fashion in his Thursday confessional, said Kelly had lied when directly confronted about the incident.
Kelly “betrayed my trust,” he said. “I would never have come out here four or five weeks ago and made a joke about these lane closures if I ever had an inkling that anyone on my staff would be so stupid to be involved and so deceitful.”
Christie, while insisting he was blindsided by the emails, said he took the blame for the whole incident: “Ultimately I am responsible for what happens under my watch, for good and for bad.”
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He also promised a Thursday visit to Fort Lee to deliver a personal apology. Christie — who also announced that he told his former campaign manager, Bill Stepien, to withdraw his nomination as state GOP chairman — insisted he played no role in the shutdown. “I had no knowledge and involvement in this issue, in its planning and its execution,” the governor said at the end of his 20-minute statement. “And I am stunned at the abject stupidity that was shown here. ... This was handled in a callous way.”
Christie, known for his take-no-prisoners political style, also delivered a bit of self-defense.
“I am not a bully,” insisted Christie.
Christie, taking questions from reporters, said he accepted at face value the statements made by his staff and his appointee at the Port Authority.
“I was told it was a traffic study,” he said. “And there was no evidence to the contrary until yesterday.”
Christie acknowledged there was no denying the nefarious forces that caused four days of gridlock at the world’s busiest bridge.
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Wildstein and a second Christie-appointee to the Port Authority have already resigned over the punitive lane closings — bogusly billed in a cover-up as “a traffic study.”
“It’s clear now that in the minds of some people there were political overtones of political side deals in this,” he said.
Sokolich, the target of the political payback, was never even “on his radar” during last year’s gubernatorial campaign. “Until I saw his picture last night on television, I couldn't have picked him out of a lineup,” the governor said. Christie’s choice as P.A. chairman, David Samson, was also implicated in one of the emails as helping to “retaliate” when the lanes were finally reopened. Samson issued a statement denying any knowledge of the nasty plan until it was over. The Port Authority, along with the New Jersey Legislature, is probing the act of revenge.
New Jersey’s Democrats have lambasted the bully-boy governor, charging that Christie was either lying or hiring people who lied to him. U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J), the former mayor of Newark, called the claims against Christie "deeply troubling."
I think this will be going on for awhile. The press conference AND the scandal itself.
Hear that sound? Its the sound of Governor Christie's presidential hopes crashing to the ground.
Biographical aside: As I briefly mentioned on the air when we covered this story yesterday on the radio show -- back in 1978, I was unceremoniously and rudely thrown off the George Washington bridge (no, not bodily!). We were hitchhiking at the bridge-entrance when cops told us to cease and desist, or else. My friend and I had to go all the way back to the bus depot and try to hustle a ride across.
"No hitchhiking in Joisey neithahh!" the New York City cop warned us.
Eventually, some of Tony Soprano's friends (jokey joke) offered us a ride across. They were very nice, but a bit scary to a Midwestern kid like me. Nonetheless, their East Coast-authenticity (and their very nice vehicle!) was exciting to me.
Seriously, every time I saw the beginning of the Sopranos, I thought about my ride across the bridge into Joisey, onto the NJ Turnpike... it was so similar; the sunshine, the scenery, and even the cigar. :)