EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 13, 2014

Partisans divided over scandal fallout for NJ gov


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Prominent Republicans leapt to GOP Gov. Chris Christie’s defense on Sunday, insisting that an ongoing traffic scandal wouldn’t ruin any presidential ambitions, while Democrats say it’s difficult to believe such a hands-on manager knew nothing about a plan by a top aide to close lanes at a bridge into New York City.

Politicians from both sides of the aisle took to the Sunday talk shows to debate the fallout from the traffic jams near the George Washington Bridge in September. Documents show Christie’s aides appeared to engineer lane closures at the heavily traveled bridge to punish a Democratic mayor who failed to endorse his re-election bid.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told NBC’s “Meet the Press” Christie could move past the scandal and still win support from primary voters in the 2016 presidential race.

“America’s a forgiving people, but they’re forgiving when you take ownership, you admit mistakes, you take corrective action, and that’s what Chris Christie showed,” Priebus said.

Christie said he was “embarrassed and humiliated” by the conduct of some of his staff, including top aide Bridget Anne Kelly, whom he fired after learning she gave the go-ahead to close the lanes.

John Wisniewski, a New Jersey Democrat leading the legislative investigation into the traffic jams, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” there’s no evidence Christie was directly involved in the traffic tie-up. But he said the governor didn’t have to know about the lane closures for them to be a crime.

“When you use the George Washington Bridge for what the emails show to be a political payback, that amounts to using public property for a private purpose or for a political purpose, and that’s not legal,” Wisniewski said.

Fox News Sunday political analyst Juan Williams said the scandal gives wider berth to conservatives already wary of Christie for signing a bill lowering tuition costs for students in the country illegally and embracing President Barack Obama after Superstorm Sandy.

“Right now, it looks like there’s a blockage on the long bridge to 2016 for Chris Christie,” Williams said.