Paul Begala at CNN.com:
Christie's choice: Be seen as a crook or a schnook?The reality is that it's often easier to survive political scandals by brazening them out and playing to your own strengths than by making a logical case for why you're not guilty.
... When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie channeled his inner Tricky Dick and declared, "I am not a bully," he did himself no favors.
To be fair, Christie faced a dilemma: Either admit to creating a climate of bullying, intimidation and political payback that led to the George Washington Bridge scandal, or claim that his staff and appointees disrupted traffic on the world's busiest bridge as political punishment without his knowledge. In the business we call it a choice between being a crook or a schnook.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Gov. Schnook.
A schnook, for those who don't speak Yiddish, is a dupe. A fool. A patsy. A schnook is a victim, and Chris Christie is not convincing playing the victim....
Christie approached this as if he were facing a jury and wanted their acquittal rather than their approval. That's now how you do it. Make them like you, or remind them why they liked you in the past, and it might not matter whether you're guilty.
How did Ronald Reagan survive Iran-contra? By being the Reagan so many people liked -- a slightly befuddled old grandfather who seemed as if he wouldn't hurt a fly. Remember this preposterous passage from his Iran-contra speech?
A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that's true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.Perfect. Pure Reagan. How could that sweet old sitcom grampa have done anything bad?
And how did Ollie North bury Iran-contra? Not by persuading people that he was innocent, but by being the cocksure embodiment of the military culture whose congressional testimony was Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men ("And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives") six years before that movie came out.
What about Bill Clinton in Monicagate? We look back on "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky" as a shameless, shameful moment, but it helped save Clinton's career, because it was the Clinton we'd voted for twice -- a guy with real moral weaknesses, yes, but a guy who could compellingly talk about what was right. The contrite, whipped-dog speech Clinton gave after his grand jury testimony was far more truthful -- and came off far worse.
Or let's talk about Wayne LaPierre. When I heard that Governor Christie was holding a press conference yesterday, I thought, Why not wait? That worked for LaPierre after Newtown. For days after the massacre, gun control advocates snickered that the NRA had gone silent, as if the gunners couldn't possibly defend themselves under the circumstances. Then LaPierre went nuclear. It worked -- he rallied his base with rage rather than contrition.
That's what might have worked for Christie -- he could have waited till Monday, allowed the wingnut media to steer the story from "Christie administration engages in pathological vendetta" to "Why are we obsessing over this and not how awful Obama is?" Then he could have done a minimal mea culpa and started going after enemies. (Maybe he could have focused on Rachel Maddow for her rather convincing theory that this was payback to the Democratic
At this moment, Christie needs to give his fans more of the pleasure they take from his innate Christie-ness. Yesterday he didn't. When he was being lauded by Fox for yelling at teachers, he believed his own press clippings. More recently, though, when he was being praised by the centrist press for being a lovable, huggable bipartisan, he believed that. Apparently he still believes it. The other public persona -- which is obviously his private persona as well -- worked a hell of a lot better for him.
(Begala via Memeorandum.)