Chris Christie, who’s a bully, is surprised his staff acts like bullies

I’m watching Chris Christie’s mea-kinda-culpa press conference in response to the growing George Washington Bridge shutdown scandal.

And I’m hearing Chris Christie express surprise and shock and anger at the fact that his deputy chief of staff coordinated the vindictive action in order to punish a local mayor who didn’t support Christie’s re-election.

And I think Christie is missing the elephant in the room.

A man with a temperament that is infamous for being explosively angry and defensive is surprised that his staff got the message, somehow, that they strike out at people in an explosive and angry way.


Who doesn’t recognize that look?

I worked in the US Senate for five years as a legislative attorney.  And one thing I learned early on was that, as the old (incorrect) adage goes, the fish rots from the head down.  In the case of politics, every time I dealt with nice staffers, they had a nice boss.  And the nasty bitter staffers? They had a nasty bitter boss.  In Stevens office, where I worked, we were tenacious bordering on a tad a-holic.  And guess how the boss was?

Christie said during the press conference today that he’s not a bully. But of course he is. Anyone watching the man in action can tell that there’s a seething anger here that we all recognize. Maybe we’ve seen it in our fathers, or in our bosses, or simply in the crazy guy in the car behind us that gets ticked off that we didn’t start moving fast enough after the light turned green.  Chris Christie is a supremely angry man.  And we’re expected to be surprised that his staff got the message.

Here’s an 8 second snippet of Christie from this morning’s press conference about the bridge shutdown, calling on some reporter named Michaewl.  Note the overall tone, and especially his face and body language.

PS As an aside, Christie’s response to allegations that he was behind this vindictive abuse of authority is that he’s going to interview his staff again – staff that lied to him repeatedly.  But that doesn’t get to the bottom of the question of whether Christie himself was behind this.  Who is going to interview Gov. Christie?  It might just be the US Attorney.

(I’m told that in order to better see my Facebook posts in your feed, you need to “follow” me.)

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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64 Responses to “Chris Christie, who’s a bully, is surprised his staff acts like bullies”

  1. HelenRainier says:

    You really articulate the points well — it was all about him and not a word of contrition or apology for the innocent people who had to travel that bridge for the inconvenience to them. He’s a disgusting POS.

  2. michaelglaw says:

    Perhaps your last sentence is the key, Indigo. The right’s thrusting forward the likes of Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, Rand Paul, Senator Cruz (forgot his first name), et al, is their way of repeatedly screaming of “IN YOUR FACE”. It is precisely because so many thinking people are repulsed by these characters that they appeal to their base.
    And, yes indeed, they like their bullies. bullies and buffoons.

  3. michaelglaw says:

    The pity is California’s 35+million population carries no more weight in a presidential election than does each of the 17 or more states whose total is lower than that number. Hence we’re screwed repeatedly by elections of characters like Reagan and Bush Jr. It is not likely the founders foresaw things this out of balance due to the electoral college system.

  4. michaelglaw says:

    The bully performed a 100+ minute “they-a-culpa”.
    Lets see, what is that saying? – is it “a fish rots from the tail, up” – oh, no, that’s not it. Hmm which way does a fish rot?.

  5. michaelglaw says:

    Agreed. Almost like he was imitating a movie “don”, with his reference to there being no “vendetta” against the mayor of Fort Lee “because he didn’t do anything to us”; his broken heart because his team was a “family” and they had lied to him; his sadness because he was deceived right there within his tight circle where loyalty was prized so highly; and then there’s the nearly astonishing egocentricity of that presentation – on and on about how hurt and betrayed he is, while evidencing no apparent actual compassion for the countless people who this was actually done TO. He is an embarrassment to New Jersey, They, and we all, deserve better.

  6. HelenRainier says:

    Why does that not surprise me?

  7. karmanot says:

    He does have Mafia family connections.

  8. The_Fixer says:

    A “study” using this kind of methodology would only be used on lab rats, not on humans trying to go on about their business.

    Traffic engineers conduct studies through the use of traffic counting devices, aerial observation and other methods that don’t involve lane closures. Closing lanes of traffic just to see what happens borders on sadism, and is needlessly obstructive.

    There was no study. Period.

  9. HelenRainier says:

    He reminds me of a Mafioso Don trying to hide behind a veneer of “respectability.” It doesn’t wash. He is a patronizing bully who seems very narcissistic.

  10. AnthonyLook says:

    There is something THERE. When a lawyer asks for immunity from all department and states concerned; OH THERE IS DEFINITELY SOMETHING THERE. Here’s a thing to ponder, leopards do not change their spots, if they did something this EASILY and obvious PLANNED ( “GOT IT”); then you know there is systemic pattern and other such mishaps/ retaliations. Christie is going down BIG and taking others with him.

  11. Naja pallida says:

    The change in MO is a delaying tactic. The deflecting blame game is also a delaying tactic. All in the name of getting his flunkies to scour and scrub any possible direct link to him from the equation before things move towards an actual legal investigation. Then, those flunkies will start to throw themselves on their swords for him. I think the only question is how many people will Christie destroy before one of his victims decides to stand up for themselves and tell the public the truth?

  12. karmanot says:

    TUIMM thanks Strepsi, that gave me indigestion.

  13. Strepsi says:

    haha Monocerous


  14. lynchie says:

    and responsibility

  15. lynchie says:

    More like the Eva Braun/.

  16. lynchie says:

    there is no hard evidence because as a lawyer Christie knows to put nothing in writing. A few words to his capo and the deed gets done. To even claim he is not a bully is pure horseshit. As a federal attorney he was investigated for gross spending while on the job and he used his position to push companies and individuals. Lets not forget using the NJ police chopper to fly to his sons ball game and then after landing used a state limo to go the last 300 feet.

    John you should get the video of Morning Joe where Mika and Joe were doing the GOP two step and apologizing for him and blaming his staff. That is very revealing.

    The guy is a bum, who uses threats and intimidation to get his way and he has been doing it for years. The media did the wallpaper job so he was ok to put forward as President but I don’t think the people will buy his shtick, but hey, we do have a bunch of bullies who envy this behavior living among us.

  17. devlzadvocate says:

    Interesting how evey scandal follows an almost forumla and script – drip, drip, drip – revelation, denial, revelation, apology, revelation, mea culpa, revelation, resignation.

  18. BeccaM says:

    I find it easy. Tina Fey is the pretty one. ;-)

  19. BeccaM says:

    No apology either for the tens of thousands of commuters delayed for hours in unnecessary traffic, nor for the kids who were late for school, nor for the families put in danger because EMT couldn’t reach them.

    As ever, it’s all about Chris Christie. He’s sorry because his staffers (PLURAL) lied to him. So he claims.

  20. devlzadvocate says:

    Telling that he apologized for his staff lying, but not for them carrying out a political vendetta . . . AND that his curiosity is peaked only when he is confronted with crisis, not prior to that. Shades of Dubya.

  21. karmanot says:


  22. In related news, Liz Cheney applied for a New Jersey fishing license today.

  23. Houndentenor says:

    There was no study. That was a lie. And the revelation that it was a lie was the beginning of this becoming a big story. If there was no wrongdoing, why would there need to be a cover-up?

  24. Houndentenor says:

    The problem with the denial is that no one is going to believe that a staffer could make this happen unless people in the state though that Christie WOULD order something like that. The climate was such that people were afraid to take on the office. Whether Christie knew or not may be something we never know for certain, but it’s clear that the people in the state thought that was possible allowing this kind of thing to come from his office.

  25. Houndentenor says:

    I have to admit I had to look carefully to make sure whether it was Fey or Palin. That is one of the classic SNL impersonations.

  26. Houndentenor says:

    I lived in NYC for 15 years. It’s easy to mock such politicians from afar, but they seem to be the only ones who ever get anything accomplished. Sort of like being corrupt in Louisiana. The “clean” governors couldn’t get anything done because everything is so shady there. (Grew up in East Texas watching local news from Shreveport!) These tactics will not play well in the midwest where people are expected to behave better in public.

  27. Houndentenor says:

    There is some logic to the idea that a Republican from a blue state might be able to take places like Ohio and Florida. The GOP can’t retake the white house without at least one of those states.

  28. Houndentenor says:

    Definitely not in Ohio.

  29. Houndentenor says:

    Usually Christie addresses criticism head on. When originally asked about this he laughed it off and deflected. Why the change in MO? I realize there’s probably never going to be any hard evidence linking Christie to this but I don’t believe that he knew nothing about it. I also realize that people who don’t want to believe that aren’t going to. I don’t think this changes people’s perception of him that much, but then I never thought his style was going to fly in the rest of the country. He’s like a cartoon of what people in the south think politicians from the northeast are like. This just reinforces that perception. He’s probably done as far as national politics, but I think that like Giuliani in 2008 this was going to fizzle fast once he took his act on the road.

  30. karmanot says:

    Yes, I’ve noticed that about the wiflet, she has a sadistic streak. She’s the Ellse Koch of New Jersey.

  31. Naja pallida says:

    Thankfully he’s too vain to ever take the pay cut.

  32. BeccaM says:

    The detail I notice right off, both in the press conference and in his earlier statements, is he keeps trying to limit the blame to just one staffer at a time.

    First it was Wildstein, the former NJ Port Authority director. Then we learn Bill Baroni (another Port Authority appointee) was in on it. Then it’s also Christie’s deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, who apparently instigated the whole thing. Now from today’s press conference, apparently his former campaign manager, Bill Stepien was also in on it.

    And hey, as with Nixon, it wasn’t the crimes: It was the coverup that did him in.

  33. PeteWa says:

    CHRISTIE: To the people of New Jersey who recognize a fellow mean spirited bully, hell ya I did it! To those of you who can’t believe that a person would do such a thing, I say to you, I know right? To those of you who are just flat out stupid (and I’m thinking that’s most of you, to be honest, I’m just that kind of guy) look at this angelic mug! Thank you, that will be all.

  34. BeccaM says:

    Despite the fact that particular statement was also a baldfaced lie. As the Fort Lee mayor explained last night, there are no ‘dedicated lanes’ for Fort Lee’s use only.

  35. BeccaM says:

    It’s not supposed to make sense. It was just the futile attempt at plausible deniability.

  36. Monoceros Forth says:

    f–kin’ —-

  37. BeccaM says:

    That’s Tina Fey, by the way. It’s supposed to look fake.

  38. BeccaM says:

    They like bullies. They like to watch bullies in action, especially when they can safely assume (they hope) that the bullying will never be directed at them, but rather at people they don’t like or respect.

    There’s the one clip of Christie yelling at a schoolteacher, and you can see the eyes of his supporters — including his wife — simply glowing as he heaped on the verbal abuse.

    It’s a sickness, feeding on negativity like that, but it’s endemic to the GOP today. It’s how they can say “Good!” when faced with someone else’s suffering or misfortune.

  39. Monoceros Forth says:

    Well said, sir!

  40. Zorba says:

    Either he knew all about the plot, in which case he is guilty, or he didn’t know about it and he is an incompetent administrator and boss. Choose one.
    (Personally, I think he knew about it. But either alternative does not make him look good.)

  41. cole3244 says:

    this is what limbaugh would be like if a politician.

  42. Naja pallida says:

    With that statement Christie exudes ignorance and incompetence all at once.

  43. She’s not quite so blustery and snarly when it’s more than just a helpless teacher she has to be accountable to…

  44. heimaey says:

    He’s going on an apology tour?

  45. Dave of the Jungle says:

    Spiteful Vindictive Asshole + Nuclear Launch Codes = Not Good

  46. Monoceros Forth says:


  47. Monoceros Forth says:

    Has there ever been a more fake-looking wink? Ugh. I feel dirty now.

    The reference to Cheney is apt and reminds me of the recent Huffington Post article about Liz Cheney’s shambolic run for office in Wyoming. The article pointed out how deeply was ingrained into the Cheney family rules that you never, ever admit that a political enemy was ever correct about anything. “…There’s the essence of Cheneyism. Criticism, in her mind, is not something that merits self-examination.”

  48. mirror says:

    I guarantee in a presidential election Christie goes down harder in CA and WA than McCain or Romney. I don’t know Oregon well enough to say there.

    Does this kind of obvious asshole play well in Florida or Ohio? Virginia?

  49. mirror says:

    I’m saving this: “I think that being a vindictive asshole is supposed to be a
    virtue–shows you’re tough–as well as not apologizing for any of your
    stupid mistakes–shows you’ve got principles.”

  50. Strepsi says:

    LOL so true since the Cheney/Rove days. Just lie, then double down on the lie. Admit nothing.

  51. Monoceros Forth says:

    Note also that one of his earlier responses to the scandal was to blame the city of Fort Lee for having any traffic to worry about:

    “The fact is, I didn’t know Fort Lee got three dedicated lanes until all this stuff happened, and I think we should review that entire policy because I don’t know why Fort Lee needs three dedicated lanes to tell you the truth,” Christie said at a Dec. 13 press conference. “And I didn’t even know it until this whole, you know, happening went about.”

  52. Monoceros Forth says:

    I think that being a vindictive asshole is supposed to be a virtue–shows you’re tough–as well as not apologizing for any of your stupid mistakes–shows you’ve got principles.

    Hell, he’s probably already hurt himself badly in that regard even with his half-assed, insincere contrition. You’re not supposed to give any ground.

  53. basenjilover says:

    This ain’t over until the fat bully sings!

  54. HereinDC says:

    Good clip John.

  55. Indigo says:

    I have only one question about this event: What is it about Christie that tempts Republicans to think of him as a possible candidate for the presidency? I don’t see anything.about him to like.

  56. Hue-Man says:

    To put it more bluntly: Why can’t the most powerful politician in New Jersey get the traffic moving, particularly when his own government is causing the delays? If he were competent, he would have picked up the phone the first hour of the blockage and “Do what you have to do to make the traffic move!” (understood: otherwise, you’ll be paving remote roads in rural NJ for the rest of your career)

  57. mml34 says:

    his administration’s “payback” tactics sound like they are right out of the tribal regions of afghanistan. and let’s not forget that these tactics/dirty tricks weren’t carried out by low level losers, they were
    carried out by political appointees that are his most trusted lifelong friends. and he didn’t know?


    at the very least he was willfully blind that his staff was behind this… another case of “plausible deniability.” unfortunately for him, it’s not so “plausible.”

  58. emjayay says:

    Yeah, I keep wondering about the logic of that too, and he repeated the transparent excuse again today. I’m pretty sure traffic studies usually involve counting cars and speeds and then maybe later temporarily trying out a change to see if it improves the car count and speeds. Not closing couple of lanes for no reason based on nothing.

    So I’m no expert, but that traffic study nonsense always sounded absurd on the face of it. Like an excuse a four year old would come up with.

  59. Monoceros Forth says:

    Somehow Christie wants us to believe he just thought there was such a “study” and he never asked what the purpose of the “study” was and why such a “study” was put in place.

    Luckily, nobody in the press ever thinks to inquire into the particulars of this purported “study” either.

  60. FLL says:

    This petulant child-man, with his penchant for temper tantrums, is the current favorite “electable” Republican. This is the cue for Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, et al to cry about how the media is not giving Christie a pass.

  61. Monoceros Forth says:

    I’m reminded of Art Buchwald’s sarcastic column in response to Richard Nixon’s assertion that John Dean, and Dean alone, was responsible for the Watergate burglary and cover-up.

    Christie’s excuse is ridiculous anyway. The correspondence reported in TPM makes it clear that the entire staff was on the same wavelength, all talking in the same, “Screw that Serbian asshole, we’ll make him pay,” language. It wasn’t one rogue staffer, it was an entire organization pervaded with the same sickness.

  62. 2patricius2 says:

    What makes no sense to me is a “traffic study” that would close lanes of traffic on a busy bridge for four days. Has anybody asked why such a “study” would be initiated in the first place? Somehow Christie wants us to believe he just thought there was such a “study” and he never asked what the purpose of the “study” was and why such a “study” was put in place.

  63. Bill_Perdue says:

    What did he know, and when did he know it?

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