There are some basic, foundational questions surrounding New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) bridge scandal (R). For example, we don’t know why, exactly, some of the governor’s aides decided it was “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” We also don’t know whether the governor himself was aware of the conspiracy when the plan was hatched.
Christie, who has apologized for his administration’s misconduct, insists he did not learn of the scheme until information came to public light three weeks ago.
With this in mind, there was an interesting exchange on a New York radio show this afternoon between host Geraldo Rivera and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), one of Christie’s most notable defenders.
Rivera: What about that email from Bridget Ann Kelly [Christie’s former Deputy Chief of Staff]? I mean isn’t that, you know, ‘time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,’ I mean, Mayor Giuliani, isn’t that, doesn’t that infer that there are, there was this conversation before about stuff like that?Giuliani: No, it doesn’t. It’s 50-50. It leaves you with no possible way of knowing – did she discuss it with him or didn’t she discuss it with him?
This has caused a stir, of course, because it isn’t a great defense for a notable gubernatorial surrogate.
One would ordinarily expect Giuliani to argue that the governor’s claims are 100% correct and there’s simply no way Christie was aware of his own top aides’ abuses. But that’s not what the former mayor said.
For one of the governor’s top supporters to suggest there’s damning evidence that creates ambiguity about whether Christie is lying – or that there’s a 50-50 chance the governor’s entire defense is a sham – is problematic.
In related news, some of the governor’s detractors have argued that it’s implausible to think Christie was unaware of the Fort Lee scheme at the time given his hands-on style. There’s simply no way, the governor’s critics have argued, that a notorious micro-manager would be completely in the dark while members of his own team crippled a New Jersey community on purpose as part of a political scheme.
Christie seemed mindful of this as far as back his apologetic press conference. A reporter asked, “Can you understand why people would have a hard time believing that you didn’t know about this thing? Considering your management style and the closeness of your staff?” The governor responded, “Well, listen, I am, there’s this, there’s this, you know, kind of reputation out there of me being a micromanager. I’m not.”
But the New York Times had an interesting report this week suggesting the governor’s reputation is well-deserved.
Mr. Christie has said that he had not been aware of his office’s involvement in the maneuver, and nothing has directly tied to him to it. But a close look at his operation and how intimately he was involved in it, described in interviews with dozens of people – Republican and Democrat, including current and former Christie administration officials, elected leaders and legislative aides – gives credence to the puzzlement expressed by some Republicans and many Democrats in the state, who question how a detail-obsessed governor could have been unaware of the closings or the effort over months to cover up the political motive.
The same report added that when it came to the governor’s political operation, “Mr. Christie himself tended to the smallest of details.”