While Chris Christie's 'heartbroken,' New Jerseyans see mix of 'leadership,' 'denial' and 'cronyism'

Tim Skillern
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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gestures during a news conference Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, at the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J. Christie has fired a top aide who engineered political payback against a town mayor, saying she lied. Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly is the latest casualty in a widening scandal that threatens to upend Christie's second term and likely run for president in 2016. Documents show she arranged traffic jams to punish the mayor, who didn't endorse Christie for re-election. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Bridgegate? Or just water under the bridge?

That’s what Yahoo News asked New Jerseyans Thursday after Republican Gov. Chris Christie first fired his deputy chief of staff, then pondered at a lengthy news conference why some in his administration would have orchestrated a lane shutdown and traffic jam in Fort Lee, near the George Washington Bridge.

We asked residents: Does this affect their views of their governor? Does it cast doubt on his leadership? How will this impact the 2016 presidential race?

Here are some lightly edited perspectives, tweets and Facebook posts we harvested from our readers Thursday.

Christie a victim, too? Hardly

Chris Christie gives a good speech. I'm listening to his hollow apology for the George Washington Bridge scandal and his unbelievable claim that he was not aware of the goings on of his highest, closest staff members — a bold statement given his history of cronyism and his penchant for thug politics. Though I have never been a strong supporter, I find myself now firmly opposed to Christie.

"I'm heartbroken," he states.

He sounds less heartbroken than caught, and I can't help but see shades of Nixon clouding Christie's personal aura.

He claims he knew nothing about the closures and was lied to by his staff. This is not a credible position. The people who orchestrated the lane closures were his most trusted staff; they were members of his entourage, and though he tried to portray them as just two or three of 65,000 faceless state employees, these were the people who sat in his office with him on a daily basis. It's hard to imagine he has no control over the political actions of those closest to him.

— James H. English, Secaucus

For Christie, this too shall pass

I voted for Christie in the fall when he won handily. But this incident — a revelation out of left field, for me at least — has me rethinking my admiration for him. Most worrisome, I believe Christie's staff acted in an irresponsible and childish manner that does reflect badly on his leadership skills.

Still, I do not believe this incident will cause Christie too many problems in the 2016 presidential election, should he run. The GOP will most likely rally around him because he is so popular and he can garner votes from Democrats and independents. I admired his bipartisanship; he always seemed to reach across the aisle. And there is not anyone else with the star power Christie possesses now in the GOP.

And Christie appears to be truly sorry: "I come out here to apologize to the people of New Jersey. I am embarrassed and humiliated."

— Arrivanna Brooks, Clifton

‘Something about this guy I like’

I actually believe him. Some of us are so used to these politicians lying that we doubt them all. There is something about this guy I like and I’m a Democrat. Watch the press conference people there was no speech... he was telling the truth.

— Roberta Bostick, Jersey City, via Facebook

Whether he knew or not, Christie’s leadership is the big question

I'm surprised by the George Washington Bridge scandal, but not really surprised. While there’s no evidence Chris Christie knew about the engineered shutdown, his behavior has shown he can be generally vindictive at the expense of his constituents.

I think the GWB scandal is terrible for the 2016 election. Looking at the field of potential 2016 Republican candidates, Gov. Christie is the most centrist. But assuming he didn't really didn't know what his aides were doing, you still have to ask what kind of leader can't even lead his team.

Christie has complained that Democrats held up his ethics reform bill in state legislature. Now would be an ideal time to revise and approve that ethics bill so that something like this can never happen again.

— Bruce Bieber, Tenafly

Scandal doesn’t represent New Jersey

I am a N.J. resident who did not vote for Christie, in either election. I disagree with him on most of his politics. This incident has made me hopeful that he will no longer be a front-runner for the 2016 election. Besides this immature move on his administration's part, he does not represent the diverse and progressive state that N.J. is. I am sure he is heartbroken, but only because he got caught.

— Mara Miller, West Orange, via Facebook

Not a major scandal — except to those in Fort Lee

The incident with Chris Christie's staff is just that — his staff. I do not see a reason to change my personal views on a person because of something someone else did.

I'm not a Republican or a Democrat, but I do like Christie for what he claims he wants to do for New Jersey. He wants to fix the pension problem our state faces and he wants to direct businesses to hire workers in New Jersey. I have not voted for Christie in the past two governor elections, but he has been steadily earning my vote.

This is not a major incident. But those in Fort Lee who waited in their cars for a few hours will probably not vote for him, even though it was not his fault.

I know if it happened in Millville, where I'm from, he would definitely not get those residents’ votes.

— Gayron Wainwright, Millville

Pleading ignorance falls far too short for Christie

Christie's assertion that he had "no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in its planning or execution" reminds me of former President Bill Clinton's response — "It depends on what your definition of 'is' is" — uttered during his 1998 impeachment proceedings. That was a denial of sorts, but not without semantic loopholes.

This affair has caused me to alter my view of Christie from a rough-around-the-edges yet effective leader, to more of just another politician playing the game. I think the issue will fade in short order but certainly will be dragged out of storage should Christie proceed in pursuing the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

— Bob Kuhn, Washington Township

Heartbroken? Yeah, me too

Chris Christie said: "I am heartbroken.” As a New Jerseyan who voted for the governor, I am broken myself. Broken that people would be so petty and use their power to play with citizens.

Christie also said: “I'm sad. I'm a sad guy standing here today. And very disappointed." Me, too, Christie. Sorry that you gave them something to destroy you with. Watch the hen house better this year and hopefully it will all be forgotten like water under a bridge.

— Jennifer Olex, Boonton