New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie held a press conference Thursday to address the revelation that members of his staff played a role in deliberately causing a traffic jam in Fort Lee, N.J., in September, an incident critics of Christie's administration have dubbed "Bridgegate."
Christie said he was "embarrassed and humiliated" that members of his staff lied about their direct involvement in closing access lanes to the George Washington Bridge, and responded by firing Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly. Christie had previously denied that he or anyone in his administration played a part in causing the traffic jams, but e-mails made public yesterday showed Kelly instructed the Port Authority to create backups on purpose.
Christie had been accused of deliberately orchestrating the mess as political retribution against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, who did not endorse the governor for re-election.
"I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its planning or its execution, and I am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here," he said. "This was handled in a callous and indifferent way and it is not the way this administration has conducted itself over the last four years."
Christie accepted blame for the incident, saying that that even though he had been reassured by his staff no one played a role in the bridge closure, "ultimately I am responsible for what happens under my watch, the good and the bad, and when mistakes are made then I have to own up to them."
U.S. News' Peter Roff said Christie's reaction to the scandal was a political win for the potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate:
In his first real test under fire, Christie came off appearing completely presidential. It is an unstated truism in American politics that the voters have to be able to imagine you in the role you want to occupy. If they can't see you as a president, for example, they won't pay attention to you and they won't vote for you. Christie demonstrated solid leadership and, of almost equal importance, mastery of the Trenton and national press covering the story. As long as they had questions, he was happy to stay around and answer them, even to the point of repetition.
But others said Christie's general demeanor led his staff to be "mean" and "vindictive," because they were acting like their boss. U.S. News' Jimmy Williams writes:
Christie can fire as many of his senior staff as he wants, and in fact should be lauded for doing so. He can say the "buck stops here" and should be lauded for doing so. In his words, "action was necessary," meaning he's fired Kelly. But I still have a bigger problem with the governor. He's created a culture of bullying, a staff of bullies, a mentality of "it's my way or the highway."
What do you think? Did Chris Christie correctly handle the bridge closure scandal? Take the poll and comment below.
This poll is now closed, but the debate continues in the comments section.
- Read Brad Bannon: Chris Christie's Bridge Closure Won't Hurt Him in 2016, But the Tea Party Might
- Read Susan Milligan: Chris Christie's Bridge Debacle Shows a Personality Problem
- Check out U.S. News Weekly, an insider's guide to politics and policy.