A governor and his rogue operation

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at an event, Jan. 23, 2014, in Camden, N.J.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at an event, Jan. 23, 2014, in Camden, N.J.
Photo by Mark Makela/Reuters
Last weekend, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) office went on the offensive, targeting former ally David Wildstein with a leaked attack memo a day after Wildstein’s attorney said “evidence exists” proving the governor lied about the bridge scandal. The move backfired: the memo highlighted, among other things, Wildstein’s high school record, making the pushback appear ridiculous.
 
Late on Friday afternoon, as Rachel noted on the show, Christie’s office tried to do damage control on their damage control with another leak.
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.
 
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.
Whether or not one believes Christie, a notorious micro-manager, was actually out of the loop is a matter of perspective. Given that the attack memo made the governor’s operation look even worse, it stands to reason Christie aides have an incentive to tell Politico the governor wasn’t involved, though we may never know whether or not this is true.
 
But even giving Christie and his office the benefit of the doubt, this latest effort raises questions anew about what kind of operation, exactly, the governor is running in New Jersey.
 
Over the last month or so, the governor’s office has come up with a version of events it desperately hopes the public will believe. It goes like this:
 
Leading members of Team Christie went rogue last fall, using their power to cripple a community on purpose. As the scandal intensified, other leading members of Team Christie went rogue again last week, launching a misguided attack on a perceived foe. The governor who tends to oversee even the smallest details of his operation, we’re told, was blissfully unaware of what was going on around him in both instances.
 
This isn’t what the governor’s critics are saying; this is what Team Christie is saying. It’s their defense.
 
The governor hoped to cultivate an image of an effective manager who knows how to take control and lead, but by all appearances, we’re watching a governor who’s slowly losing control of his own enterprise.
 
Related video:

Chris Christie and New Jersey

A governor and his rogue operation