Chris Christie says in an interview published Monday that he's "readier" than he was before to be president. That's the latest word from the embattled New Jersey governor on his White House abilities.
It follows a spate of recent reports that Christie is now winning the sympathy and support of many of his fellow Republicans -- even some who consider him too moderate for their presidential tastes -- as he counters accusations that the shutdown of traffic lanes to the George Washington Bridge was an act of political reprisal by him or key members of his staff.
Politico is among the latest sources of these reports. The website quotes, among others, one South Carolina Republican National committeeman who says grassroots GOPers feel solidarity with Christie and that the scandal is being overblown by the too-liberal mainstream media; a Tea Party activist as saying some Republicans "are circling the wagons;" and an Iowa GOP strategist who thinks "Iowans are generally going to consider it a dead issue unless something else were to emerge."
Amid investigations by the Democratic-controlled state legislature and a U.S. attorney, Christie has fired his deputy chief of staff and campaign manager. Earlier, two top appointees of the governor to the agency that runs the bridge resigned. With more subpoenas already issued, more hearings in the offing, and the national media already turning up more evidence of the Christie administration's political bullying, the potential is there for "something else... to emerge." If that "something else" is the governor's personal involvement in the shutdown, many politicians and pundits of all stripes say that, readier or not, Christie can forget about any presidential hopes. Otherwise, many opine, he'll survive.
I'm here to contradict the governor, to argue that his readiness today is absolute zero, and that whether or not he knew or was personally involved in the bridge scandal, any Christie presidential hopes should already be down the drain. Of course the GOP regulars are sympathetic. He's dishonest and so are they. Given his governing style and the fact that top people in his office were involved, it's impossible that he didn't know. But even if he didn't, he's equally guilty because as the man in charge there, he should have known. If he didn't it's only because he didn't want to know, that he worked hard to avoid knowing, by pointedly failing to ask anyone any questions.
Christie and his fellow Republicans make the excuse that he didn't question his deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, who ordered the shutdown, after he fired her, because he didn't want to interfere with the ongoing investigation. But he didn't question David Wildstein or Bill Baroni either, two of his key appointees to the agency that operates the bridge, who saw to it that the shutdowns were carried out. Both of them resigned back in December after the scandal began to come apart, but weeks before there was any investigation, and thus no excuse for Christie's not asking them questions. In fact, a photo shows Christie and Wildstein chatting together last September, on the third day of the lane closings, after here were already complaints and publicity about them. Christie had appointed Wildstein an executive of the agency that caused the tie-ups. Wildstein himself organized them. Can anyone believe the governor didn't ask him about them?
Equally unbelievable is Christie's clinging to the near-fiction that the lane closings came about because the authority was conducting a "traffic study." There is some slight evidence that some sort of study was conducted -- probably as part of an excuse. But a conservative website reported that the so-called study "concludes that closing lanes hurts traffic flow." Imagine that!
Furthermore, the director of the agency never authorized or was even told about the the lane closings. . Nor were local authorities -- not the mayor or police, fire or health officials -- so they couldn't plan to deal with the problems created by them. And Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WVA) said the agency had provided him "zero evidence" that any legitimate study had been conducted.
If Chris Christie's presidential hopes really depend on whether he told the truth about his involvement in the lane closings, his presidential hopes should already have gone bye-bye. And as for his current state of readiness: it's a big thumbs down!
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