New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been a rising national level political star discussed as a possible contender for the 2016 presidency. However, recent revelations in the investigation of suspicious lane closures on the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee have taken a toll on Christie’s reputation.
In September, just months before Christie’s re-election, two of the bridge’s three lanes were ordered closed by Christie confidant David Wildstein, reportedly for a traffic study. The closures caused days of major traffic jams in Fort Lee, where Democratic Mayor Mark Sokolich had declined to endorse Christie in his run for re-election.
An email from a top Christie aide to Wilstein recently surfaced, telling him “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” prior to the closures.
Over the past couple of weeks, “bridgegate” grew from whispers to a tempest to a category 5 hurricane of the sort that helped earn Christie national admiration for his handling of Superstorm Sandy’s aftermath and willingness to cross party lines and work with President Obama.
Yesterday Christie’s damage control efforts were in full force. He held a lengthy press conference at which he took responsibility, apologized repeatedly, and spoke about the actions that he had taken by firing the staff members involved in the imbroglio. His willingness to face down tough questions from reporters for two hours was proof positive of his desire to address the issue head-on rather than trying to hide from it.
Christie infused his remarks with attempts to demonstrate his emotion, saying he was “embarrassed and humiliated” by the behavior of his staff.
He also spoke in absolute terms as to whether or not he knew about the road closures, saying: “I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its planning or its execution,” Christie said of the emerging political crisis. “I am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here.”
It remains to be seen whether Christie’s PR efforts will succeed in helping quell the crisis, and what the hitch might mean for his future political aspirations.
Stay tuned to the Red Banyan Group blog for the latest in the Chris Christie damage control efforts. We will continue to follow the situation closely.