“It is what it is.”
That was the message from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at a news conference Thursday aimed at beating back the controversy surrounding his administration’s involvement in the closure of several lanes of traffic in Fort Lee, N.J., leading to the George Washington Bridge.
Those five words amounted to roughly 0.025 percent of the more than 19,000 words Christie uttered in the epic news conference, which spanned nearly two hours.
He was determined to make clear, and then reiterate, and then re-emphasize, that he had no knowledge of the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction scheme by one of his top aides to order the closures as political payback, masquerading as a traffic study, for the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee. (“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly wrote in an August email that could have doubled as a line from a “Sopranos” script.)
“I have absolutely nothing to hide,” the governor said at one point Thursday. “I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue,” he offered at another. “I probably wouldn’t know a traffic study if I tripped over it,” he said.
Christie’s workmanlike distancing had the desired effect — quieting speculation that he was directly implicated in the scandal. (And he quickly fired Kelly, whom he described to reporters as “stupid” and “deceitful.”) But the world-weariness with which he delivered his defense made clear that he knew he was at the beginning of a long journey with no end in sight.
No Republican eyeing the presidential race — and that’s pretty much all of them — had a better 2013 than Christie. And now none has had a rockier start to 2014.
Chris Christie, for getting caught in a traffic jam on the road to 2016, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.
Cillizza covers the White House for The Washington Post and writes The Fix, its politics blog.