January 14, 2014
By John Zogby
I am not making a prediction, merely suggesting how I see things. Anything can happen and there is a long way to go between now and 2016. Blah, blah, blah. Governor Chris Christie is seriously damaged by “Bridgegate”. Senator Howard Baker famously asked about President Richard Nixon at the outset of the Watergate hearings: “what did the President know and when did he know it?” Those questions have framed the investigations of so many “gates” that have followed ever since.
But as I look at the current traffic scandal surrounding the Governor of New Jersey, I have to add a little to Senator Baker’s query: If the Governor didn’t know, why didn’t he? And did he set the tone for an administration based on bullying?
I want to examine these. These were his top aides, always at his side and in his office. How could he not know that they were screwing with the largest bridge in his state? Why didn’t his own appointee to the NY-NJ Port Authority warn him of this action? Does this mean that his closest aides and one of his most important appointees were operating behind his back? Is that a recipe for competence? Is it a key credential for running the federal government from the Oval Office?
Why did his closest aides feel it was necessary to gratuitously hurt a mayor? Was there a prevailing tone of bullying coming from the Governor himself or were these rogue actors in an administration gone awry? Also – why did he have people working so closely with him in such key positions who were stupid enough to be emailing such things?
None of the answers to these questions is very comforting. At least not for Christie. I think he showed genuine outrage and acted quickly and forthrightly. But I don’t think it is enough. An artificial traffic jam at one of the most highly trafficked intersections in the world is not a small thing. One woman died, kids got to school later several days in a row, and productive work hours were lost. Why? Does Christie have the capability to hire people who are less edgy and more competent? If he can find them, can he trust them? And then can he watch them?
Americans love their cars. After they are sure their car starts in the morning, they want to be sure they can arrive at their destination safely and conveniently. They have been violated and no amount of wailing, firing, and flailing is going to win them back. Time can heal some things but he needs this time to raise money and secure volunteers for a 2016 bid. He has lost some very important time.
I like the guy, but I think he is toast for 2016. I am a pollster so let me see what the polls show.