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A Bridge Too Far?

Reince Priebus on Christie’s two-hour press conference: “What you saw the other day was leadership…everyone is fallible,” Priebus said on Meet the Press. “America’s a forgiving people, but they’re forgiving when you take ownership, you admit mistakes, you take corrective action. That’s what Chris Christie showed.” 

The Hill: “Priebus contended that Christie’s willingness to field questions from the press for hours stands in stark contrast to President Obama, who he maintained has refused to be similarly accountable for questions surrounding Benghazi or the IRS targeting of conservative groups. Dissections into those matters has yet to reveal evidence that the president himself was culpable for any wrongdoing, but Priebus has blasted the White House nonetheless by arguing the president created a culture that allowed such things to happen.” 

CNN’s Chris Frates: “Just days after dismissing two top advisers for their roles in the George Washington Bridge scandal, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is facing questions over the use of Superstorm Sandy relief funds. CNN has learned that federal officials are investigating whether Christie improperly used those relief funds to produce tourism ads that starred him and his family.”

New Jersey Rep. Frank “Pallone wrote that he was concerned about the bidding process for the firm awarded the marketing plan; the winning firm is charging the state about $2 million more than the next lowest bidder. The winning $4.7 million bid featured Christie and his family in the advertisements while the losing $2.5 million proposal did not feature the Christies.”

NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell confirms the news: “Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. announced today that the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will audit the State of New Jersey’s use of $25 million of Sandy aid funds for a marketing campaign to promote tourism at the Jersey Shore.  At issue is the bidding process for the campaign and released documents which raise questions as to why the state chose to award the contract to a firm that charged the state over $2 million more than a comparable bid for similar work.”

NBC’s Rich Gardella notes there was reporting about this last summer during the campaign: The Record: Governor “Christie said he has ‘no second thoughts’ about appearing in taxpayer-funded television commercials while running for reelection because the ads promote recovery at the New Jersey Shore in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Christie, a Republican, has been questioned by Democratic challenger Barbara Buono, a longtime state senator from Middlesex County, for appearing in the ‘Stronger than the Storm’ ads, which are being funded with money from the $60 billion federal aid package.”

Under the headline, “Chickens coming home to roost,” the Asbury Park Press editorial page writes that Christie’s ability to govern has been undercut. He presents the State of the State Tuesday and inauguration speech a week later. And, it says Christie has proven to be a bully displaying a “pattern, born of arrogance” and blames him for creating that culture: “Whatever the outcome, the narrative of Christie as the tough-talking, straight-shooting governor whose bipartisan approach gets things done has shifted, nationally at least, to the perception of Christie as a thin-skinned bully, one who will exact retribution against anyone who criticizes him. That side of his personality has been evident in New Jersey throughout his governorship, despite his repeated insistence at his press conference Thursday that he was not a bully, and that Bridgegate was ‘the exception, not the rule.’ Sadly, it isn’t true. It was a pattern, born of arrogance. And whether Christie realizes it or not, it is an ethos that apparently was absorbed by his staff — not just some lone rogue actor.” 

The Star-Ledger editorial page also blames Christie: “he created the bullying culture that inspired it.” More: “It’s not just a matter of tone. Flexing muscle against a political foe is how Christie likes to do business. He has a reputation of being vindictive toward his political enemies, so perhaps it’s only natural that Bridget Anne Kelly, a top aide, would take cues from him.”

There are more subpoenas coming today, the Star-Ledger reports.

Maggie Haberman: “Political scandals thrive on open questions, and Chris Christie’s Bridgegate has plenty.” She has 10 questions: (1) What’s the end point?; (2) How many more heads will roll?; (3) Did Christie talk to Andrew Cuomo? (The Wall Street Journal reported he did, and asked “him to turn down the heat”; (4) What will Bridget Kelly say?; (5) Will Kevin O’Dowd’s nomination for attorney general proceed?; (6) Why did Mark Sokolich believe he was being punished?; (7) Why didn’t Christie order an internal review?; (8) Will Christie be subpoenaed?; (9) Will Democrats overstep?; (10) Do Christie’s fellow governors stand by him?