- S.E. Cupp saw three scenarios: 1. Christie knew directly about bridge payback. 2. He knew obliquely
- Third possibility: He was in the dark. She says this is the one he went with, convincingly
- She says news conference hit all right notes; opponents will still try to hang him with issue
- Cupp: If he's telling truth, his career should survive; if he isn't, issue will be fatal
There were always three possible scenarios for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Bridgegate:
One, that he was explicitly involved in the shutting down of three lanes feeding the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, New Jersey, as political retribution against a no-name mayor who didn't endorse him in an election Christie ran away with.
Two, that he was marginally involved, in that he told staffers to "take care of" the problem mayor but wasn't specific about the actions to take.
And three, that he wasn't involved at all; that an appointee at the Port Authority and staffers in his office cooked this up unbeknownst to him, didn't tell him and repeatedly lied to him about their involvement until e-mails proved otherwise.
Wednesday, many assumed the third option impossible, admittedly including me.
It's Christie, we said. It's politics, we said. It's ... New Jersey, we said.
Nonetheless, that's exactly the story Christie's going with, and in his two-hour news conference, he did a tremendous job convincing me, at least, that he really was blindsided by the news.
And as apologies go, he hit all the right notes:
He stuck around for an hour and a half answering reporter questions. He admitted the buck stops with him. He fired two staffers immediately. He said he planned on meeting with the jilted Fort Lee mayor and with Fort Lee residents to apologize directly to them. In contrast to other well-known news conferences, it was one of the best mea culpas in recent memory.
But he's not out of the woods yet.
Democrats would very much like to hang Christie on this, and they will not be satisfied with the "it wasn't me" defense. If there's any dirt, any inkling that he had knowledge of this, they'll find it and destroy him over it. This is sure to be a sideshow for the next few weeks, if not months, as investigators look into exactly how this happened. And even if it turns out Christie's hands are clean, it still won't paint a pretty picture of politics in Trenton.
He's also heading up the Republican Governors Association, a post that requires him to regularly raise funds and speak alongside other Republican governors. Christie said in his news conference that this wouldn't affect his job at the RGA, but that's pretty naive. What governor wants to share a stage, at least in the short term, with a guy embroiled in a seedy, petty political scandal?
In the long term, however, if Christie is telling the truth, this is perfectly survivable. If he's not ... well today's performance was Oscar-worthy -- and fatal.