Some of the nation’s most prominent conservatives sought to downplay New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s bridge scandal on the Sunday morning political talk shows, suggesting it paled in comparison to purported Obama Administration perfidies like Benghazi, or the IRS “targeting” of conservative groups.
“Chris Christie has been totally open here,” Reince Priebus, Chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), said, dismissing any notion that Christie had something to do with the political closing of the George Washington Bridge.
“He stood there for 111 minutes in an open dialogue with the press. Now, only if Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would give us 111 seconds of that, would we find out some things we want to find out about Obamacare, Benghazi, the IRS.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) echoed Priebus. “I think [Christie] took the bull by the horns, held people accountable, fired people. And I think it is a very big difference than how this administration has handled things — IRS, Benghazi, you can keep your health insurance if you want it. Nobody’s been fired over that. And what we’re seeing is a big difference.” Kinzinger concluded that the scandal “may set him up for 2016.”
“This is not Watergate. This is not even the IRS targeting of last year,” said Wall Street Journal Editorial Board Member Kimberly Strassel. She then invoked a older conservative line blaming Obama for last year’s devastating budget cuts and government shutdown: “in fact, it’s not even, if you think about this as a raw display of political power, it’s not even this White House using the sequester and the shutdown to inconvenience millions of Americans to make a political point.”
“How could you not have known?,” former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani asked rhetorically. “How did President Obama not know about the IRS targeting right wing groups?”
Sean Spicer, the RNC’s communications director, spun Christie’s handling as “what America is yearning for.”
“Yes, mistakes will happen,” Spicer said. “Do you own them? Do you take responsibility for them? Do you put in place — take action to ensure they don’t happen again. Too often, whether it’s Benghazi, GSA, the IRS scandal, we don’t say ‘me me me.’ We say it’s somebody else’s fault, blame somebody else, I had nothing to do with this. Chris Christie did. He said the buck stops with me.”
Perhaps the forthright summary of this position came in a tweet from Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL). “No Christie fan but ‘Bridgegate’ is small potatoes vs [Ambassador Stevens] + 3 others killed due to neglect/[mismanagement] -selective outrage #Benghazi.”
The George Washington Bridge closure disrupted four separate emergency medical response efforts, including one for a 91 year old woman who later died. The newest documents about the scandal, released after Governor Christie’s press conference, have shown the scope of the scandal to be wider than previously believed.
Karl Rove made similar comments to the above on Fox News Sunday. In response to Bob Woodward’s argument that the Christie scandal was uniquely bad because it “came out of that office,” Rove said “So did Benghazi, and so did IRS… come out of appointees of President Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton!” The Republican strategist concluded that “the amount of attention paid this week to Chris Christie makes the coverage of Benghazi at the same time and the coverage of the IRS pale in significance” and that Christie’s handling of the scandal shows that the Governor has “what we want in a leader.”