I have been hot and cold with Chris Christie over the years. I have cheered his bold tongue-lashings of union thugs and cringed at his lackluster defense of 2nd Amendment rights. But the New Jersey Governor recently revealed the deepest introspection that I have heard from any leader of late, and I believe that his sentiments deserve notice.
Every objective spectator of American social life recognizes the near-comical level of media bias on display in the recent flap surrounding the intentional New Jersey bridge traffic jam. With the level of attention being paid to this story, you would think that Christie had stranded diplomats under attack in Benghazi. But the Governor’s rejoinder to this petty scandal has been remarkable. And frankly, I did not have Christie on my personal list of president considerations – until now.
The George Washington Bridge spans the Hudson River, connecting New York with New Jersey. This past September, two access lanes of this essential route were closed for days, bringing commuter traffic to a crawl. The commuters from the nearby borough of Fort Lee took the brunt of the logjam.
It recently came to light that Governor Christie’s deputy chief of staff invoked the bridge lane closures with a subtle email to a political ally at the Port Authority. The traffic jam was intended as retribution against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, a Democrat who endorsed Christie's opponent in the 2013 gubernatorial campaign.
Chris Christie took the podium last week for a press conference that should be held as the example for every chief executive who finds himself in a public crisis. His initial written statement was released on the very day that the Governor learned of the misconduct. Directly addressing the public took a mere 24 hours. Christie’s preparation for the press conference included gaining a comprehensive understanding of the facts and firing the people responsible. His public resolve even prompted those involved at the Port Authority to retain criminal defense attorneys.
The three components of Governor Christie’s press conference that impressed me most were (1) his opening statement, (2) his seizing responsibility, and above all (3) his abject humility. Christie seemed anxious to publicly deliver his initial sentiments with, “I come out here to apologize to the people of New Jersey.” In taking responsibility, he announced the specific consequences in ridding his office of those involved. After the conference, the Governor drove to Fort Lee to personally deliver his apology to Mayor Mark Sokolich.