"Mistakes were clearly made," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said on Tuesday about the still-developing traffic jam scandal involving his administration. Leading his "State of the State" speech with the issue, it's safe to assume that his brief remarks haven't yet put any concerns to rest.
Introduced to extended applause, Christie addressed the scandal at the outset. "The last week has certainly tested this administration," Christie said. "Mistakes were clearly made, and as a result, we let down the people we were entrusted to serve." As he did during his extended press conference on Thursday, Christie noted that his administration's behavior was his responsibility. "To be sure, we will cooperate with all inquiries," he said, continuing, "what has occurred does not define us, or our state. This administration and this legislature will not allow the work that needs to be done to improve the people's lives in New Jersey to be delayed for any reason."
This isn't how Christie had hoped to begin his first such speech since his overwhelming reelection last year. As The Washington Post notes, it could have been another stepping stone in his path to a White House bid in 2016. Instead, he was boxed into defending his role in the closure of two of Fort Lee, New Jersey's three on-ramps to the George Washington Bridge, a move that snarled traffic in the town for a week last year and which documents released last week suggest may have been driven by political motivations from Christie's staff. If there's any consolation for the governor, it's that New Jersey voters aren't fazed by the scandal — and most of the rest of the country isn't paying close attention.
Earlier on Tuesday, Christie was pulled even closer to the scandal when pictures were published by The Wall Street Journal showing the governor chatting with Bill Baroni and David Wildstein last September. The two men resigned from leadership positions at the Port Authority (which manages the George Washington Bridge) in the wake of the traffic jams that plagued Fort Lee last September. The photos were taken on September 11 — the third day of those disruptions and well after Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich first raised concerns about the disruptions to Baroni.
Of the four questions The Wire compiled following Christie's lengthy press conference last Thursday, all still remain unanswered.
His own travails aside, Christie did offer his judgment on the state of the state of New Jersey: It is "good," he said, "and it is getting better."