Christie’s Hole Keeps Getting Bigger and Making More Problems
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
With the announcement this afternoon that the U.S. Attorney in Newark has issued a set of subpoenas related to and connected to individuals who have already been cited as being involved in Bridgegate, the Christie scandal is headed for a the major confrontation that many have been expecting since the story broke. The hoopla that the bridge lanes closing had created has now escalated not only into a problem for the State of New Jersey and the Republican Governors’ Association, but also now for the direction of the Republican Party.
After developing a national reputation for a style that was abrasive and hostile towards opponents, towards the media, and towards a system that did not embrace him, Governor Christie has now found himself constantly defending his behavior. While eventually Christie either will be shown to have known what his staff was hatching against opposition politicians; or it will be demonstrated that for approximately four months, Christie was so insensitive and so oblivious to the flap over the bridge lanes closing that he never obtained clarification as what had actually occurred in Fort Lee. In response, all the Christie bombast now is being replaced by an effort to demonstrate his commitment to business as normal in New Jersey.
With his fund-raising efforts on behalf of the national Republicans Governors Association, clearly heading in tense times, the coup that the GOP had achieved in having Christie as it chair for the 2014 election cycle is now going flat as well. More time is being spent by the group figuring out how to ease him out of the position, than is being spent raising money for the campaigns. Not only does the Republican Party still need to balance a more moderate direction away from the Tea Party pull—which Christie hopefully was going to provide–but also it must seek ways to remove a dynamic political force that has become a major political liability. (Efforts at claiming that the various investigations and legal proceedings are partisan witch-hunts will quickly disintegrate if evidence is produced to corroborate the allegations.)
Unfortunately for the national Republican Party, Christie's ascendancy had coincided perfectly with Speaker Boehner’s attacks on the Tea Party and the right-wing in December. The development of Christie as the chair of the Governors group as well as his looming possible presidential 2016 candidacy appeared to be evolving on a schedule which was permitting the Speaker to push his party harder to a more cooperative—even collegial posture in the Congress as well. Now, Christie appears to be headed nowhere good for himself, his State, or his Party. Speaker Boehner will need to seek another horse to ride for the 2016 presidential race and he does not have many—winnable options from among which to choose.