What does America like more than a fall from grace? Redemption. If New Jersey Governor Chris Christie didn't break the law, then he can be on the road to recovery from Bridgegate, a scandal that threatens his ability to govern and his presidential ambitions. At issue is hours-long congestion leading to the George Washington bridge caused not by a traffic study but according to Christie accusers, the Guv's grudge against the Fort Lee mayor for refusing to endorse him before November's election.
All of a sudden, his straight-talkin', what-you-see-is-what-you-get public person turned to vindictive bully. While a probe delves into Bridgegate, another investigation looks into Christie's choice of a higher bidder to make commercials with federal Hurricane Sandy relief money promoting New Jersey tourism starring the Guv and his family. Writing about the bridge imbroglio, an editorial titled Chickens Come Home to Roost, questions if any appearance, or actual bullying is, as Mr. Christie claims, "the exception not the rule." The Asbury Park Press editors note:
"Sadly, it isn’t true. It was a pattern, born of arrogance..."
Many elements are still in play with the most important evidence that Governor Christie committed a crime. If nothing new emerges (including new scandals) and the investigations reveal that he and his staff acted improperly but did not break any laws, then it's rehabilitation time. To effectively govern and/or pursue 2016 ambitions, Governor Christie must pursue:
- Transparency: he needs to get out in front of his critics and accusers, collaborating fully with the investigations and set up an independent inquiry. He must not only acknowledge what happened. He must own up to it 100%, apologize, and ask for forgiveness due to his lack of judgement from Bridgegate traffic victims and the people of New Jersey.
- Humility: If arrogance as mentioned in the aforementioned editorial is at the heart of Christie's bullying behavior, then the antidote is humility. Humble pie should be the main course of his act of contrition which is connected to...
- Get to work: Education and public safety are some of of issues he can tackle to get his New Jersey poll numbers back up. Upside: adding to his state record will only help his national poll numbers Remember, they didn't even register a blip when Bridgegate broke because the country was more focused on the tundra cold weather, according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.
I made these points on MSNBC's Live Agenda panel with host Richard Lui. It seems the Governor listened to me since just a few hours later at the State of the State address, he followed my lead almost to the letter (or he has a good crisis communications management team working day and night in the so-called war room). The Governor didn't go all the way, using the passive: "mistakes were made" as opposed to "I made a mistake." Is this an indication that proof is going to emerge that links him directly to breaking laws so he can't be caught on record lying, fodder for cable news infinite loops and GIFs? Did the former prosecutor rear his ugly head and "lawyer" his script, more an act of CYA than redemption?
Under the national media microscope, this speech is now behind him.
The question is: what's ahead for Governor Christie?
I joined panelists Amanda Terkel from the Huffington Post and The Maddow blog's Steve Benen to discuss Chris Christie, as well as President Obama's forthcoming spotlight on using his executive authority to bypass Congress under the auspices of helping the middle class. Perhaps to this economic push on the heels of a crappy job report, he'll add executive authority to halt the deportations which have skyrocketed on his watch?
Click below to watch this appearance which aired on January 14, 2014.Do you think the Chris Christie scandals have long enough "legs" to cripple any presidential ambitions?