As New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) administration is confronted with a growing list of controversies, the governor's Republican allies are starting to fan out to push back against the recent scandals and allegations. And as it happens, it's not just Rudy Giuliani making odd arguments.
Take former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R), for example, who's taken it upon himself to question the veracity of Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer (D) following her accusations of Christie administration corruption.
"This is a lady mayor who asked for $127 million of hazard mitigation money from the governor to give that to her from the federal money, when the state was receiving in its entirety only $300 million," Barbour [told CNN yesterday]. "It is absurd to think that one town would get well more than an third of the total amount of money." The former Mississippi governor went on to accuse Zimmer of fabricating her personal diary showing that Guadagno had tried to shake her down and then promised to deny it."
As defenses go, it's not clear who this is supposed to persuade. Indeed, it's almost as if Barbour, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, joined the Christie Defense Team without thinking his talking points through at all.
It's tough to know where to start, but let's focus first on "lady mayor."
There's no obvious reason why the Mississippi Republican considers Zimmer's gender important. When the mayors of Fort Lee and Jersey City raised concerns about the Christie administration's possible abuses of power, there's no evidence the governor's admirers dismissed them as "guy mayors" or "male mayors."
So why on earth was it necessary for Barbour to tell a national television audience that Hoboken is led by "a lady mayor"? Does the Christie surrogate believe her gender affects her credibility?
On a more substantive note, Barbour argued that Zimmer requested too much disaster-relief aid for her devastated community after Sandy. This is a subjective question, of course, but it's certainly the sort of question worthy of debate.
It's also entirely beside the point. Let's make this plain: according to the Hoboken mayor,
(1) she requested relief funds from the Christie administration after a brutal storm;
(2) she was told by Christie administration officials that she'd receive more relief funds if she approved a land-development deal.
Barbour's argument, in effect, is, "The lady mayor requested too much money." While that's a debatable point, what difference does it make when the underlying controversy is over alleged corruption? Whether Zimmer sought $1 or $1 trillion is entirely unrelated to the accusation at hand.
As for Barbour's belief that the mayor may have fabricating her personal diary, when Republicans have any proof to substantiate such an allegation, it would be a welcome addition to the debate.
Finally, let's not overlook the fact that Team Christie was so impressed by Barbour's "lady mayor" performance that the governor's aides put the CNN interview on YouTube in the hopes that it would reach an even larger audience.