About a week ago, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) sat down with CNN’s Jake Tapper, who asked about the governor’s “Bridgegate” scandal. The Republican presidential hopeful made it seem as if the entire fiasco had nothing to do with him.
“I’m the governor; it happens on my watch,” Christie said. “But you can’t be responsible for the bad acts of some people who wind up in your employ.”
A day later, the Garden State governor told the editors of the New Hampshire Union Leader, “I’ve learned to be less trusting and ask more questions, first off. The fact is my general nature is to be a trusting person.”
All of which led to yesterday’s Christie interview with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, who asked about the scandal that’s helped drag down the governor. From the transcript, by way of Nexis:
KELLY: So far there’s nothing tying you to giving the order in the bridge gate scandal.CHRISTIE: Nor will there be.KELLY: But the case is not yet closed and so some say, what if you get indicted? Are you a risky bet?CHRISTIE: No, the U.S. Attorney said in his press conference a weeks ago, that there will be no further charges in the bridge matter. He said that affirmatively three or four times. This has been 15 months of investigation and there’s been no connection to me because there is no connection to me. I had nothing to do with it, knew nothing about it and nor will there be evidence come to the contrary because it just didn’t happen.
The more the governor says the scandal has “nothing to do with” him, the harder it is to take his defense seriously.
Indeed, looking back at Christie’s comments to Jake Tapper, note that he refers to his former aides – now under criminal indictment – as people who “wound up” working for him, as if the governor showed up at his office one day and discovered some random people who just happened to somehow end up in his administration.
The truth is far more straightforward. Some of Christie’s top aides conspired to punish some of Christie’s constituents because a local mayor failed to endorse Christie’s re-election. These Christie administration officials abused their powers – allegedly to a criminal degree – in Christie’s name.
“There is no connection to me”? C’mon. Even if one is inclined to accept the governor’s explanation at face value – Christie was simply too ignorant of what was happening around him to be held responsible – clearly the scandal has at least some connection to him, given that this was his team acting in his name.
What’s more, there’s also the possibility of a more direct link. David Wildstein’s lawyer said two weeks ago that the governor “knew of the lane closures as they occurred” and that “evidence exists” that proves it.
In last night’s interview, Megyn Kelly also reminded Christie that two-thirds of his own constituents do not believe he’d be a good president. The governor replied, in reference to New Jersey residents, “They want me to stay. A lot of those people that 65 percent want me to stay. I’ve heard that from lots of people at town hall meetings, ‘Don’t leave,’ and ‘Don’t run for president because we want you to stay.’”
Christie also probably believes they were saying “Boo-urns.”
To be sure, the brazen arrogance borders on amusing, but the notion that New Jersey voters are so in love with Christie that they can’t bear the thought of him moving to the White House is plainly silly. As of two weeks ago, the governor’s approval rating in his home state was down to just 35%.