Christie’s mea culpa on Bridgegate was still all about him

Listen
 In this Sept. 12, 2013, photo Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly, right, stands with Gov. Chris Christie, left, during the massive boardwalk fire in Seaside Heights.  (AP Photo/Office of Gov. Chris Christie, Tim Larsen, File)

In this Sept. 12, 2013, photo Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly, right, stands with Gov. Chris Christie, left, during the massive boardwalk fire in Seaside Heights. (AP Photo/Office of Gov. Chris Christie, Tim Larsen, File)

So, first it was time for a little traffic problem in Fort Lee.   Now, it’s time for a little speed bump on Chris Christie’s drive to the White House.

The traffic backups at the George Washington Bridge last September have turned a very big problem for a governor with a very big personality and a very big mouth.

I have to confess that until last week I thought the flap over the traffic-snarling lane closings in Fort Lee was a partisan tempest in a teapot, a sign of the feckless frustration of New Jersey Democrats.

I was wrong.

This was bad stuff, as Christie admitted during his bravura performance at the media whipping post Thursday.

Top Christie aides, along with people he appointed to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, showed a petty vindictiveness and a contempt for the public good that takes your breath away.

A lot of commentators have opined that Christie’s mix of profuse apology and pugnacious braggadocio last week was as good as it gets in the art of damage control.

If you will permit a few observations who was unable to watch the performance in living color, but read the transcript later on (often a distinctly different experience):

While Christie admitted his aides betrayed of public trust, the reason he harped on for firing them was that they lied to him, betrayed him, humiliated him.
He did admit that he’d been stupid earlier in the controversy to snarl sarcastically at reporters. What was far stupider, though, was what he did right before that now-notorious news conference where he was so confidently dismissive of any suggestion that his team had had anything to do with the lane closings.  He gave his staff all of one hour before the news conference to alert him to any problems. If you worked for someone with a temper and tongue as savage as Christie’s, might it not take more than 60 minutes to get up the nerve?
 Bridgegate is catching fire as a scandal precisely because it plugs so neatly into longstanding concerns about the man. His appeal as blunt straight-talker has a dark flip side: the arrogant bully.

Lots of time will now be spent on that classic question: What did the governor know and when did he know it?

But even if we stipulate that the governor was in the dark, that doesn’t let him off the hook.  What is now evident is that people who worked closely for him for years didn’t hesitate to indulge in snarky vengeance, to spike the ball in the face of woefully overmatched foes.

No inner voice told them not to. They obviously thought they were doing what the Boss would want.

What does that say about a man who would be president?

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.