Bridget Kelly, who wrote the now infamous e-mail about it being “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” is out. Bill Stepien, his former campaign manager and nominee to head the state GOP, has also been asked to withdraw due to the “callous indifference” he displayed in the e-mail chain. That was enough for Christie fans on Twitter who are eager to rehabilitate him to draw a flattering contrast with Obama: When a Christie subordinate screws up, she’s out on her ass. Fair enough, although Christie has a lot more to lose right now in not sacrificing someone than our lame-duck president has in refusing to sacrifice Sebelius. And it’s not like O’s never accepted a resignation resulting from scandal. Would candidate Obama have canned a political aide who jeopardized his chances at the presidency like this has for Christie? We don’t have to wonder — he did, before ultimately bringing her back as an ambassador. Fearless prediction: If Christie’s elected, a contrite, reformed Bridget Kelly will also catch on in the administration somewhere. That prospect should keep her quiet even if she was in fact directly ordered by Christie to close the lanes on the bridge. And even if Christie doesn’t re-hire her down the line, someone else might — unless she decides to spill the beans on Christie, in which case her breach of loyalty will make her toxic in her industry.
As for today’s presser, it’s the same sort of political Rorschach as yesterday’s scandal news was. If you like Christie (i.e. you’re center-right to center-left), you’ll likely find this a masterful show of accountability and leadership. My Twitter timeline was packed with Republicans cooing that Christie had defused the bomb, even though he spoke not a word that wasn’t fully expected of him. If you dislike Christie (i.e. you’re a liberal or a tea partier), you’re skeptical that he’s telling the truth and irritated at how easy it is for a pol to get away with something like this. I don’t dislike him the way TPers do but I’m skeptical nonetheless. I find it hard to believe that Bridget Kelly is the mastermind of a revenge operation that extended to Christie appointees in the inner circle and at the Port Authority, especially in the middle of a reelection campaign. Even if Kelly wanted to punish the mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing her boss, it’s mind-boggling to think that various members of Team Christie would have played along knowing that exposure could have jeopardized his reelection bid and presidential chances. It’s one thing for the candidate himself to be that reckless; it’s his life, after all. It’s another thing for subordinates to do it to their superior. That being so, how likely is it that Kelly, Stepien, and Wildstein would have instigated this retribution without any of them so much as mentioning it to him? They’ve briefed him on this before, at length, and no one said anything? Ever?
If you missed it last month, read this NYT piece from late December about Christie’s growing reputation for retribution against his political enemies. The best you can say in his defense is that Kelly, Stepien, et al. thought, based on what they knew of their boss, that he’d be fine with screwing Fort Lee with brutal traffic for a few days as punishment. Which makes me think this isn’t the last story we’ll hear about dubious forms of retaliation by Team Christie.