Chris Christie took decisive action today in response to his administration’s scandalous creation of traffic problems at the George Washington bridge. He fired top aides, apologized for their action, and visited the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey whose constituents were victimized by his administration’s stunt.
The mayor accepted Christie’s apology and said he took the governor at his word that he wasn’t involved in and didn’t know about the scheme.
Christie’s decisive moves will certainly help him reduce the political damage from the scandal. Though he doesn’t really deserve much credit for the firings, they stand in contrast to the Obama administration’s approach to dealing with those within it who fail to live up to the public’s trust.
Christie also caught a break when the family of the 91 year-old woman who died as first responders were delayed due to traffic on the George Washington Bridge said the lane closures were not responsible for her death. The family expressed its belief that the woman died in her home, but couldn’t be pronounced dead until responders got her to the hospital.
The key for Christie now is that his claim of lack of involvement in and knowledge of the scandal hold up. He must hope, for example, that the aides he fired don’t contradict him on this.
Christie should also begin to play against type a bit. In other words, he should act to shed, or at least soften, his bully image. Perhaps the top aides he brings in as replacements will work with him on that.
The scandal will not go away completely, though, nor should it. Legitimate questions remain about Christie’s ability to select top staffers with a modicum of decency, about the tone he set as governor, and about the quality of his investigation into charges that his administration created traffic problems — charges that he pooh-poohed, but that turned out to be all too true.
But assuming Christie isn’t shown to have lied, most people’s final judgment about his fitness for the 2016 Republican nomination and for the presidency itself will be based on other facts and impressions. For example, my view regarding the former will be based on Christie’s policy positions and on his willingness to help President Obama win reelection during the final days of the 2012 campaign.