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Why the traffic debacle matters for Christie

Late last week New Jersey Governor Chris Christie found himself in the hot seat as thousands of documents revealed the administration’s vindictive nature in closing multiple lanes on the George Washington Bridge.  Many of the documents reveal that the closings were retribution towards dissidents and rivals in Fort Lee.  No one finds this surprising, it is politics after all, but there are certain ramifications for Christie and his inevitable 2016 presidential bid.

In most political scandals there is a list of repercussions, but Christie has one silver lining. With most of the major newspapers and most of Americans watching the situation unfold, Christie can demonstrate and reassert himself as a leader in crisis management. A characteristic that, as most recent presidential administrations demonstrate, is a valuable trait. People rally behind leaders that can save face in crises. Of course this is contingent on Christie not being involved, which is unlikely. And there is great certainty that this will not end well for Christie.

For one, the act is illegal and is being investigated by the feds. If there is a connection between Christie and the closing of the lanes, then bank on Christie’s political stock to crash. For one, it’s hard to run with a history of abusing power at any level. Secondly, if Christie is involved he’ll undoubtedly face charges. Nothing has tied Christie to the act yet but many investigators echo that Christie having no involvement or knowledge of his closest aides doing this “just strains believability.”

The main problem with the scandal is the conflict between Christie’s images. Prior to the Fort Lee lane closings, Christie was known for the ‘no BS’ politics and for working with Obama to deal with Hurricane Sandy.  Now Christie’s image is ruined, his credibility is in doubt and what makes Christie appealing as a 2016 candidate is ruined if he is lying about not being involved. Nobody can mold their image and then act paradoxically to their image and expect people to forget. Nobody respects liars, and Christie set his innocence to a high standard: that he didn’t know, that he had been lied to, and that mistakes were made; if the media circulation about the issue tells us anything, if Christie lied in any varying degree the media on both sides will bury Christie.

The other issue for Christie is that this spectacle removed an advantage Christie had over other Republicans and Democrats. In his own party, Christie would have clean hands against Congressional and House Republicans who are immensely unpopular. Against Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic candidate in 2016, Christie would have the advantage of being under the radar. Clinton hasn’t even declared her candidacy and is taking heat from conservatives and the media. The more exposure that politicians have, the more likely they will do something stupid or something undesirable gets headwind. Christie was always a likely 2016 Republican candidate but if this scandal reveals that Christie participated, he will forever have to deal with this scandal sticking to whatever he does.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg;Christie and his administration have committed irreconcilable damage to their future endeavors.  Lawsuits are being filed, ‘Bridgegate’ has already been coined, and every political sin is being excavated. 2016 prognosis for Christie? Dire and increasingly negative.

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