That was pretty awesome.
Markos is willing to entertain the possibility that Christie had nothing to do with the original lane closings. So put that aside for now. He approaches the scandal from another angle:
[W]hy would his aides think it would be okay to screw some small-town mayor (and everyone else on that bridge) over a meaningless irrelevant endorsement? I mean, who expects endorsements from the rival party, and then gets so upset when they don’t get it to go to such great lengths as this in retribution? And who gets excited at the idea of schoolchildren getting stuck on that bridge?
They thought it was fine because of the culture that Christie has created, one of intimidation and bullying. Remember that bullying incident where he screamed at the school teacher? That wasn’t caught by a rival campaign tracker. That was caught on camera by a Christie staffer, and they put that stuff online. They’re proud of that! So given that Christie once boasted that “for better or for worse, this staff will reflect my personal style of leadership and decision-making,” it shouldn’t be surprising that it reflected the worst of his personality. Or put another way, his staff didn’t go rogue.
Now, his “I didn’t know a thing” schtick, however implausible, at best paints him as a clueless dolt who can’t handle his staff—completely counter to the persona he’s built over the last several years as a hands-on in-the-trenches roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-it-done governor. You can’t be blissfully unaware of what your top staff is doing and then claim you are deeply involved in the governing business.
But worse for him, the “bully” narrative is now set in stone. It was his greatest source of strength but now it’s been neutered. I doubt his staff will be posting any other YouTubes of him being a dick to ordinary people. Good luck with that.
Anne Marie Squeo offers her opinion on why the scandal is so devastating:
During a press conference, Christie said, “I am who I am, but I am not a bully.” And maybe by Webster’s dictionary standards, he isn’t abusive or intimidating per se. For sure, he has strong positive attributes –genuine, smart and pragmatic. But when you start listing the characteristics most closely associated with Christie, it’s hard not to find the words pugilistic and caustic are front of mind. … [Christie] says he had nothing to do with Bridgegate, and no evidence has been released to suggest otherwise. But his personal brand makes it easy to believe he was and that’s the kind of culture he developed and rewarded. And that’s the jam he needs to get out of to have a serious run at the White House.
You know a politician is having a bad day when he has to stand before a news conference and plead, “I am who I am, but I am not a bully.” Frankly, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was unconvincing on that score Thursday as he attempted to contain a widening abuse-of-power scandal. Moreover, Christie displayed a degree of egocentrism that can only be described as stunning. His apologies would have sounded more sincere if he hadn’t portrayed himself as the real victim.
Some think, so long as Christie is not caught in any lie, the press conference did Christie good yesterday. Josh Green isn’t so sure:
One school of thought in professional crisis management is that it’s best to come clean all at once: Say everything you know and answer reporters’ questions until they run out. That was obviously Christie’s approach, and it didn’t serve him well. The direct, forceful statement and list of actions he delineated at the beginning petered out into standard-issue political dodges and passive-voiced buck-passing. “Mistakes were made,” he said at one point. The longer Christie talked, the less he sounded angry and resolute and the more he sounded as if he were making excuses. It became harder to believe that he could have been ignorant of what his closest staffers were up to. The famous Christie narcissism also reappeared when he began referring to himself as a straight-talker and touting his achievements—and this, too, undercut the force of his opening statement.
I saw several pundits yesterday dismiss the idea that voters would still be focused on this scandal two years from now. They’re right — as far as it goes. … But what those pundits are missing is that the presidential campaign doesn’t begin in 2016 with the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. It began months ago, with the invisible primary.
That’s the competition to secure support from key party actors, including politicians, party-aligned interest groups, campaign and governing professionals, formal party officials and staff, activists, and the partisan press. In effect, it’s the efforts of these party actors to coordinate and compete over the leadership of the party.
The invisible primary helps to structure, and often determines, what happens in the nomination battle.
Meanwhile, it would seem that the first serious challenger to Hillary Clinton has emerged in the Democratic primary. Former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer. He is already visiting all 99 counties in Iowa. Personally, I think Schweitzer is a Clinton plant. Why? Because I think Clinton, in the primary at least, wants to be the liberal/progressive option, so that she forecloses another Obama-style insurgency. If Schweitzer is her opposition, she would be the more liberal option. Sam Kleiner:
Becoming famous as a “blue man in a red state,” Schweitzer compromised on core liberal commitments to gun control and allied himself with the NRA. In his 2008 run, Schweitzer was endorsed by the NRA with an “A” rating and a personal visit by Wayne LaPierre for a campaign rally. Schweitzer signed an array of NRA-backed bills into law, including a 2009 “stand your ground” bill that the NRA called a “victory.” …
On the environment, Schweitzer has similarly been far to the right of the Democratic Party, and he isn’t sorry about it. He blamed “jackasses” in Washington for the delays on the building of the Keystone Pipeline. While Western Democrats have a tradition of producing some of the party’s greatest conservationists, including Secretaries of the Interior Stewart Udall and Bruce Babbitt, Schweitzer has gone the other direction. He has been one of the strongest advocates for expanding coal production, with extensive plans to ship coal to China. That plan has been met with fierce resistance from groups such as the Sierra Club. Western Democrats have a rich tradition of being the vanguards of the party’s environmentalist wing, but Schweitzer does not fit there.