Instead it was done intentionally to punish the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee who did not endorse Republican Chris Christie for governor.
I didn't know any of that when I got up this morning and my mom had on Chris Christie's news conference on CNN.
I haven't watched Christie closely. I live in Alaska. New Jersey's far away. But my superficial knowledge was that he was the sensible Republican among those being mentioned as potential presidential candidates. He worked with President Obama and praised his hurricane Sandy response just before the 2012 election causing other Republicans explode. He seems to be able to work with Democrats and won reelection as governor by a wide margin in a Democratic state. He was, I understood, the most likely Republican to be able to defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016, but the question was whether he could survive the Republican primaries.
So that was the background I watched the news conference with.
I was impressed. He sounded sincere. He didn't seem to be using any notes. He said the right things about his responsibility - he didn't know anything until yesterday, but he's the governor so he's responsible - and he'd fired the Kelly as soon as he learned about the incriminating emails.
He went on and on - almost two hours. It was riveting television. He was good. He's obviously both intelligent and experienced. In response to a question about why he didn't ask Kelly about what actually happened before firing her, he said he fired her for lying to him, not for what she did. Since there were state and federal investigations already announced, if he questioned her it actually might be seen as inappropriate. He mentioned his own experience as a prosecutor.
He expressed his sadness and disappointment with a close associate he trusted who lied to him.
But we saw the Wolf of Wall Street the other night. Leonardo DiCaprio as Wall Street huckster Jordan Belfort makes me pause in my judgement. Belfort could sell anyone anything. There's a scene that everyone should see. Belfort is starting his own brokerage firm and he's teaching his crew how to make cold calls to sell penny stocks - ones where the broker gets 50% commission - that are worth basically nothing. He's got a client on the speaker phone and smoothly tells him the thickest lies about about the potential of the stock, while his body language to his employees tells the story about reeling in the fish and then screwing him.
Everyone should see this scene and have it implanted in their brain so that it rises to one's consciousness every time a car salesman, a cable tv or phone salesman or a stockbroker opens his mouth. People should see DiCaprio thrusting his pelvis for his salesmen while he so sincerely assures the client that nothing could go wrong.
I walked out of the three hour movie telling my wife that as skeptical as I already am, this movie makes it hard to trust any one.
And so that's what I brought to this news conference with Christie. Christie's performance was perfect. But I also wondered if he were thrusting his pelvis in his head. There are so many questions.
Was Kelly the culprit or the scapegoat?
How could he have a staff person he worked closely with for so many years who would lie to him like this?
How did he misjudge who she was so enormously?
Why would they jam up the 'busiest bridge in the world?' to punish a political opponent who, according to Christie, wasn't even on his radar? This reeks of the kind of dirty tricks that, while both parties commit them, have become more associated with Republicans since Watergate and then the rise of Karl Rove.
Politics attracts people who need or want power, power over others. People who need power, I suspect, feel some inferiority, some lack, that this power will help them overcome, that will show others that they are somebody. And such people seem particularly vulnerable to using their power inappropriately. This was truly a petty act of retribution. Petty only in the sense of inappropriately demonstrating one's ability to take revenge for some assumed slight. But the impact on people was hardly petty. I saw petty people like this with giant chips on their shoulders in 2011 when I blogged the state legislature in Juneau.
Was this even a plot by the more conservative wing of the party to derail Christie's presidential campaign? Or less likely, but plausible, a Clinton plot?
The biggest question outstanding seems to be whether Christie's performance today was genuine or whether he actually knew about this. If he knew, and today's news conference was just a giant lie, I don't see how he can recover as a presidential candidate. I don't see how he could stay in office in New Jersey for four more years.
If follow up investigations support his claims of innocence, I'd say today's performance shows him as a very competent leader. People will still attack him for letting Kelly into his inner circle. But lots of people have secrets that they hide from those around them and other politicians have had close aides resign because of scandals.
I would note that CNN had a feeding frenzy over this story, repeating parts of the news conference over and over again.
[UPDATE 9pm - whatever the outcome, this political cartoon by Bill Bramhall of the NY Daily News is priceless:
|click image to go to the source: Bill Bramhall/NY Daily News|