I Changed My Mind About Chris Christie During the Bridgegate News Conference Yesterday

I wasn't crazy about the guy and his presidential chances.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gestures during a news conference Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, at the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J. Photo | Mel Evans

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gestures during a news conference Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, at the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J. Photo | Mel Evans, AP

I have been lukewarm on the “Chris Christie for president” media crusade. Although I like the Harry Truman-style straight talk, I don’t like the Nixon-like temper he is quick to display in public. But Christie’s performance at his Bridgegate news conference has changed all of that. While the MSNBC fan club is gleefully predicting the demise of the one candidacy that could have derailed the Hillary coronation, I now am now all in for Christie. He took something I have not seen a candidate so willingly and so humbly take in a long time – accountability.

In the first 10 seconds of his news conference he used the word “apologize” twice. That was quickly followed by the words “embarrassed,” “humiliated” and “unacceptable.” Christie then went on for more than two hours to answer every question even though he was staring down the barrel of a federal investigation. Does that seem like a man who has something to hide?

He even used the word that is never used by politicians, “lie.” Politicians will accuse others of not being forthcoming, of having their facts wrong, of speaking untruths. But they never say “lie.” Christie used the L-word at least a half dozen times. And then he announced that he fired the person who lied to him quickly and without reservation. This wasn’t done quietly or with any question about who or why. It was done very publicly with a detailed explanation.

Historically, one of the great weapons for an executive when things go wrong is “plausible deniability.” Christie did deny knowing, but admitted to being embarrassed by his ignorance and ultimately responsible. The New Jersey Governor’s strength has always been that he is not like every other politician. He only strengthened that perception at his news conference. Dealing with yet another crisis, this one political, he was not like any other politician. I don’t think he would ever argue what “is” is or claim “I don’t recall” 88 times when questioned about arms for hostages.

President Obama, on the other hand, has raised the art of plausible deniability to an art form. For a guy who is portrayed as the smartest guy in any room, he sure seems to be left out of the room a lot. We are to believe that he didn’t know a thing about Fast and Furious, the IRS scandal, NSA surveillance or the Healthcare.gov web site, and that he went to bed while the U.S. consulate was under attack in Benghazi? President Obama would never say he was “embarrassed” or “humiliated” by his intellectual absence from those scandals and debacles, all more serious than causing a traffic jam in Fort Lee. He is comfortable in his blanket of denial.

Chris Christie is not. Yes, he gets angry, but he is real and seemingly uncalculated. I trust him, more now since the news conference than before it.

Polls show that Americans are weary of the nuanced cool detachment of the current administration. They have lost faith in the man who said, “If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep it” and never once admitted that was not true. Instead he insisted we misheard him, forgetting that there are dozens of video clips that prove our hearing is just fine.

That most recent example of Presidential denial and lack of accountability is even more glaring now that we have seen the polar opposite in the gubernatorial acceptance of responsibility from Christie.

He has solidified himself as the anti-Obama. And although there are plenty of pundits who believe his performance marks the beginning of the end for the man who would be the Republican savior, I believe it helped him, as most Americans finally see the kind of change they had hoped for.

That is, assuming that everything he said at his press conference is true. If one word was a lie, he’s done.

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