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Markos Moulitsas: Gov. Christie derailed

With Chris Christie embroiled in controversy, much of the investigative energy is being spent on whether the New Jersey governor approved or even knew about his staff’s involvement in the partial shutdown of the George Washington Bridge last year in order to punish the Democratic mayor of tiny Fort Lee for endorsing the Democratic candidate. 

Christie himself forcefully denied the notion, declaring himself the victim in the situation time and time again during a never-ending press conference last week. Anyone looking for empathy from the governor would be severely disappointed, as he fixated almost exclusively on the pain, hurt and disappointment he suffered ... from his staff lying to him. 

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Indeed, in explaining his firing of his deputy chief of staff, the reason he gave for canning her wasn’t the possibly-illegal-but-definitely-thuggish decision to use the bridge to settle minor political scores. Rather, she was fired because she lied to him. And it hurt him. Personally. A lot!  

To Christie, that’s what really mattered — not inconveniencing thousands of commuters, or keeping children from getting to school on time, or interfering in the police search of a missing 4-year-old child, or delaying emergency vehicles, costing one 91-year-old woman her life. According to Christie, it really was all about him.

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Christie is telling the truth and didn’t have advance knowledge of the bridge lane closures. That still does not exculpate him of responsibility. 

Christie has eagerly cultivated his image as an aggressive, intimidating bully. His own staff posted video of the governor’s testy exchanges with constituents to YouTube — usually the sort of material that opposition trackers would gleefully upload. So why would anyone be surprised that his top leadership emulated that style? Indeed, Christie once boasted that “for better or for worse, this staff will reflect my personal style of leadership and decision-making.” 

So, given the macho-vindictive nature of their boss, it’s easy to see why Christie’s top brass would think it would be OK to shut down one of the world’s busiest bridges in order to punish a mayor no one knew, of a town no one knew (Fort Lee is just 2.89 square miles, ranked 67th in the state by population). And given new evidence that Jersey City’s mayor was similarly targeted after also refusing to endorse Christie, as well as other reported examples of similar bullying, it’s increasingly clear that Fort Lee wasn’t an outlier. 

And yet, despite his well-defined history as a hands-on bully, we are now supposed to believe that he is also clueless, disengaged and operating at the mercy of his staff. 

We are supposed to buy that Christie, a former prosecutor and the bane of corrupt New Jersey politicians, was helpless and unable to see through the lies of his own corrupt inner circle. 

And, we’re supposed to take at face value that Christie remained ignorant even as the evidence against his team mounted over the past several months, even as he begged New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to back off in on his own state’s investigation into the lane closings, as The Wall Street Journal reported way back on Dec. 13 of last year. 

It seems absurd that Christie’s career has been derailed over the non-endorsement of an inconsequential dot on the map, but it has. As a result of this caper, Christie will be seen as either a vindictive bully or a clueless dolt. And neither of those images will do his future plans any favors. 

Moulitsas is the publisher and founder of Daily Kos (dailykos.com)