Obama said the same thing about the IRS targeting tea partiers, of course. To which conservatives replied: That’s no excuse. Even if he didn’t order the targeting, bad behavior coordinated by multiple subordinates typically doesn’t happen unless they have reason to believe it’ll be tolerated up the chain. Usually, when they play dirty, they’re taking some sort of cue from their boss to do so, whether in broad ideological terms or direct marching orders. Does the same reasoning apply to Team Christie?

His defense, I take it, will be that it would have been madness for a sitting governor running for reelection to greenlight a tactic this petty when he was on his way to a landslide. It could only hurt him. (Of course, the same was true for Nixon and Watergate.) But that’s also the case for the staffers who ordered the bridge lanes closed — it could only hurt their boss to do so, and yet, for some unknown reason, they felt compelled to. Would they have dared to take a risk that huge without his approval, tacit or not?

Gov. Chris Christie has responded Wednesday afternoon to email exchanges made public earlier in the day linking a top aide to the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal that’s been under investigation.

“What I’ve seen today for the first time is unacceptable. I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge. One thing is clear: this type of behavior is unacceptable and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better. This behavior is not representative of me or my Administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions,” the governor said in a statement.

And so, as predicted, we’ll be moving next to the “Kelly resigns” phase of the scandal followed by the media feeding frenzy over whether Christie himself had a role in the lane closings. I thought it’d be over in a week, but Jersey Democrats are crowing about laws having been broken and Jersey papers are now running stories like this:

Emergency responders were delayed in attending to four medical situations – including one in which a 91-year-old woman lay unconscious – due to traffic gridlock caused by unannounced closures of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge, according to the head of the borough’s EMS department.

The woman later died, borough records show…

Although he did not say her death was directly caused by the delays, [EMS coordinator Paul] Favia noted that “paramedics were delayed due to heavy traffic on Fort Lee Road and had to meet the ambulance en-route to the hospital instead of on the scene.”

Joshua Green thinks the scandal’s a big deal because it damages Christie’s image as a “nice jerk” who fights for the little guy. That’s basically right, even though I doubt it’ll have legs if it can’t be proved that he endorsed the lane closings himself. The question with Christie is figuring out where his abrasiveness springs from. Is it from righteous indignation at how public-employee unions loot taxpayers or does he just get off on pushing people around? The two aren’t mutually exclusive, but the more evidence there is of the latter, the better Scott Walker looks as a righteously indignant yet mercifully soft-spoken alternative. A lot of undecided “somewhat conservative” voters in 2016 will be measuring how much good they expect President Christie to do against how aggravating, and exhausting, it would be to put up with him day after day for four years. This adds some weight to that second arm of the scale.

Update: Good point:

Second look at Rubio?