The good news about last night’s Republican debate was that Donald Trump’s absence reduced the repugnance factor by roughly 30 percent. The bad news is that his rivals swam in the same old fever swamp, doing what they do best – sowing fear and spewing lies.
And the biggest liar last night was probably Chris Christie.
That’s saying a lot, because Christie had serious competition. For instance, Ted Cruz (natch) recycled the old lie that Obamacare is “a job-killer,” despite the statistical fact that nine million jobs have been added since Obamacare was enacted. Cruz also said that President Obama has “dramatically degraded our military,” despite the fact that, five years in a row, Congress enacted defense budgets that were smaller than what Obama had requested. Meanwhile, highly caffeinated Marco Rubio said the White House “still refuses to acknowledge” that the recent shooting of a Philadelphia cop “had anything to do with terror.” That’s another lie. The White House has specifically said that the shooter’s behavior “could be an act of terrorism” – even though FBI investigators have yet to conclude that.
But those (and others) were chump change, compared to Christie’s solid-gold whopper. Check this out:
Chris Wallace: Governor Christie, two of your former top aides go on trial in May for fraud and conspiracy in the “Bridge-gate” case, the politically motivated closure of lanes to the George Washington Bridge. Another former aide who has already pleaded guilty and will likely testify for the government, as you know, says that you knew about this whole deal. Can the GOP take the chance of nominating you with this scandal still out there, sir?
Christie: Sure, because there has been three different investigations and proven that I knew nothing.
Lying politicians have a built-in advantage: Roughly 99.9 percent of their prospective voters won’t bother to parse their assertions. Christie has been virtually living in New Hampshire, hoping to finish in fourth place, by marketing himself as a straight-talker – and if he’s lucky, he’ll snow enough folks to keep his candidacy alive. But if they were to actually check out his exoneration statement, here’s what they’d find:
What he said last night was pure fabrication. He has not been cleared by “three different investigations.” He has been exonerated by only one investigation – his own internal report, which was conducted by a friendly law firm.
It has the stench of a coverup. The Christie-allied lawyers, during their questioning of 75 witnesses, took no notes, made no recordings, kept no transcripts. In fact, they were recently condemned by a federal judge: “The taxpayers of New Jersey paid…millions of dollars to conduct a transparent and thorough investigation. What they got instead was opacity and gamesmanship.”
Oh yeah, the taxpayers. To date, they’ve shelled out $8 million for Christie’s sole exoneration.
But wait, it gets better. The law firm’s report was crafted in part by an attorney, Debra Wong Yang, who just so happens to be a Christie friend – in Christie’s words, a “dear friend.” So dear, in fact, that she has vacationed with the Christie clan. So dear that she dispatched a daughter to intern in the gubernatorial office of her friend. So dear that last month, in Los Angeles, she co-hosted a $2700-per-person fundraiser for her friend.
How nice it would’ve been, last night, if Fox News had demanded that Christie name the three exonerating investigations. Because last we heard, the state legislature’s probe hadn’t cleared him. (It says that Christie’s role in the lane closures is “currently unknown,” and that his top aides “felt empowered to act as they did, with little regard for public safety.”) And last we heard, U.S. attorney Paul Fishman, who’s readying the spring trial, hasn’t ruled out filing more charges. (Fishman: “It’s like the end of Downton Abbey, and you’ve got to wait for a whole ‘nother season.”)
But even though Fox failed to follow up, Christie was squirming anyway. You could tell, by what he said next:
And I’ll tell you something else. I inherited a state in New Jersey that was downtrodden, and beaten by liberal Democratic policies, high taxation, high regulation. And, this year, in 2015, New Jersey’s had the best year of job growth that our state has ever had in the last 15 years.
“I’ll tell you something else” is code for “I gotta change the subject.” Yet somehow he forgot to mention that Jersey during his seven-year tenure has suffered a record number of credit rating downgrades – and that it now has the second lowest debt rating in America. But he wasn’t done changing the subject:
And I’ll tell you one other thing. You know why the Republican party will want to take a chance on me? Because they know that Hillary Clinton will never be prosecuted by this Justice Department, and they’re going to want to put a former federal prosecutor on the stage to prosecute her next September. And, there is no one on this stage better prepared to prosecute the case against Hillary Clinton than I am.
We’ll see whether New Hampshire voters will buy this bluster from a guy who could wind up being named as an unindicted co-conspirator. Lies about a triple exoneration won’t clean his Jersey mess. Send that man a mop.