When Karl Rove praises a politician’s “straightforward” approach to an erupting scandal, it seems wise to expect that something very twisted will instead emerge in due course – and to consider his real objectives.
In this instance, the former Bush White House political boss – and current Republican SuperPAC godfather – was discussing Chris Christie’s response to “Bridgegate,” as the events surrounding the vengeful closure of part of the George Washington Bridge by the New Jersey governor’s aides is now known.
Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Rove said that Christie “did himself a lot of good” during the famous two-hour press conference on the scandal, when he sorrowfully announced the firing of a deputy chief of staff and a top state party official, for “lying” to him about the bridge affair.
“I think his handling of this, being straightforward, taking action — saying, ‘I’m responsible’ — firing the people probably gives him some street cred with some Tea Party Republicans, who say that’s what we want in a leader, somebody who steps up and takes responsibility,” said Rove. Pandering to the Fox audience, he went on to contrast the righteous Christie with Bill and Hillary Clinton as well as Barack Obama, and to note that the IRS and Benghazi “scandals” hadn’t gotten nearly enough attention compared with Bridgegate.
While Rove sticks a halo on the man his old boss Dubya used to call “Big Boy,” everyone else might want to wait for the documents and testimony forthcoming from investigations at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the bridge, in both houses of the New Jersey legislature, in the Department of Justice and in the United States Senate.
Observers dazzled by Christie’s press conference performance should perhaps ask themselves how his top aides managed to pursue this scheme – evidently in revenge against the mayor of Fort Lee, the New Jersey commuter town so badly damaged by the closing of traffic lanes – under his nose.
They might ask why the governor continued to believe, as he says he did, that the controversial action resulted from a “traffic safety study” for almost a month after the Port Authority’s top executive and two other PA officials testified last December 9 that no such study ever existed.
They might further ask about the curious photograph published by the Wall Street Journal on January 14, showing Christie yukking it up in public with David Wildstein, the Port Authority official who ordered the lane closures at the behest of Bridget Anne Kelly, last September 11 — three days into the traffic crisis in Fort Lee.