New Jersey Governor Chris Christie could never get elected United States president because it is simply a bridge too far for him. There was never a way he could outflank conservative Republicans to secure the nomination. They don't trust him, and now it appears he has given most Americans a good reason not to trust him as well.
Governor Christie and his administration are now under investigation by state and federal officials for possible abuses of power. The probes were triggered by lane closures on the Ft. Lee, New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge, which leads to New York. The lanes were closed for four days last September and caused major disruptions for commuters, school transportation and emergency vehicles. Initially officials at the Port Authority, which oversees the bridge, said it was part of a traffic study. But accusations that it was a retaliatory move against the Democratic mayor of Ft. Lee, who had failed to endorse the governor's November reelection bid, surfaced at the time of the incident.
Earlier this month, the governor claimed no knowledge or involvement in the closures in a news conference. The governor spoke following disclosures of incriminating email and text messages involving several of his key aides. On August 13, Christie's Deputy Chief of Staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, sent an email that read, "Time for some traffic problems in Ft. Lee." The email went to one of Christie's Port Authority appointees, David Wildstein, who was also his childhood friend. Wildstein responded, "Got it."
At his lengthy news conference, Governor Christie said he was "embarrassed and humiliated" by the poor judgment of his staff. He announced that Kelly had been fired. He also said Bill Stepien, a top Christie aide, would step down as a consultant for the Republican Governor's Association, which Christie headed, and would withdraw his bid to become the state's party chairman. Wildstein and another Christie Port Authority appointee, Bill Baroni, both resigned their positions last December. Wildstein, who exercised his right not to answer questions before a hearing earlier this month, is reportedly seeking immunity.
At the very minimum, the disclosures surrounding the lane closures at Ft. Lee call into question Governor Christie's personnel judgment. That's if you believe he didn't know anything despite the fact that so many close to him were involved. But now fresh disclosures of the governor's apparent abuse of power have raised additional questions about whether there is a pattern.
One Democratic mayor stepped forward to say he was the victim of Governor Christie's strong-arm politics. He complained that the governor's staff had cancelled a series of important meetings between him and state cabinet officials after he said he would not endorse Governor Christie's reelection. This weekend the mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, accused the Christie administration of withholding Hurricane Sandy relief money because she would not go along with fast-track approval of a redevelopment plan they supported. Meanwhile, federal investigators are looking in to whether Christie's reelection campaign misused funds appropriated for Hurricane Sandy victims.
Governor Christie was thought to be considering a run for the presidency in 2016. His blunt, aggressive and energetic style has attracted a lot of support among Republicans and independent voters according to national polls. He has positioned himself as a strong leader, a person who can work with all parties, and a man who can get things done. Many of his opponents call him bully, political, ambitious and a micromanager.
But some of his strongest opposition comes from within the Republican Party. Among their most notable complaints is that Governor Christie's embrace of President Barack Obama following Hurricane Sandy hurt Mitt Romney's presidential bid. Critics accused him of bolstering his own national status at a cost to the Republican Party. The Conservative Political Action Committee chose not to invite him to speak to their 2013 convention. At the time their chair said, "Hopefully next year he's back on the right track and being a conservative."
Some Republicans have voiced support for the governor's statements and actions in response to the Ft. Lee lane closures, noting that he took responsibility for what happened. Nonetheless, the Christie administration is now dealing with 20 subpoenas from state investigators, and more may be on the way. Those who support the governor are hoping he is not personally linked to the growing scandal. But, for those who have opposed the governor, the scandal is just further evidence that Chris Christie cannot be trusted to be president.