CNN's GUT CHECK for January 9, 2014
January 9th, 2014
06:26 PM ET
11 months ago

CNN's GUT CHECK for January 9, 2014

CNN's GUT CHECK | for January 9, 2014 | 5 p.m.
n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle

DEVELOPING …. CHRISTIE 'EMBARRASSED AND HUMILIATED'
In a nearly 2-hour press conference, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he knew nothing about political motives behind traffic tie-ups. While Christie blamed his staff and accepted responsibility, he also praised his own response to the fallout, saying that he asked Bill Stepien, a former campaign manager who was recently nominated to be the New Jersey GOP chairman, to leave his organization by the end of the day and that he fired his Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly 24 hours after he found out about the debacle.

TOP QUOTES FROM CHRISTIE’S PRESS CONFERENCE:

– I am not a bully –
“I am who I am, but I am not a bully. I am tough, but I’m willing to compromise.

– I am responsible –
“I take this action today because it's my job. I am responsible for what happened.”

– I am a different type of politician –
“Politics ain't bean bag, OK? And everybody in the country who engages in politics knows that. On the other hand, that's very, very different than saying that, you know, someone's a bully. I have very heated discussions and arguments with people in my own party and on the other side of the aisle. I feel passionately about issues. And I don't hide my emotions from people. I am not a focus-group tested, blow- dried candidate or governor.

– I am soul-searching –
“I've been doing a lot of soul-searching. I'm sick over this. I've worked for the last 12 years in public life developing a reputation for honesty and directness and blunt talk, one that I think is well-deserved. But, you know, when something like this happens, it's appropriate for you to question yourself, and certainly I am. And I am soul-searching on this.”

- I am not angry (yet), I am sad –
“I'm sad. I'm sad. That's the predominant emotion I feel right now is sadness, sadness that I was betrayed by a member of my staff, sadness that I had people who I entrusted with important jobs who acted completely inappropriately, sad that that's led the people of New Jersey to have less confidence in the people that I've selected. The emotion that I've been displaying in private is sad.”

TWO AIDES FIRED: With scandal, Christie loses his top enforcer
CNN’s Peter Hamby reports: “New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie fired his deputy chief of staff on Thursday, admonishing Bridget Anne Kelly in harsh terms during a marathon Trenton press conference about the still-unfolding George Washington Bridge imbroglio.

But the scandal claimed another victim, stunning close-watchers of Christie and his tightly-knit operation: Bill Stepien, a sharp-elbowed strategist who managed Christie’s two gubernatorial campaigns and was primed to play a senior role in a likely 2016 presidential bid.”

Christie's decision to cut Stepien loose is akin to President Obama firing an aide as high-ranking as David Plouffe or David Axelrod.

"This is a huge, huge deal," said one Trenton insider. "This was the governor's guy."

A KEY FIGURE … CHARGED WITH CONTEMPT
David Wildstein, former director of interstate capital projects for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was charged with contempt by the New Jersey State Assembly on Thursday for refusing to answer questions posed by the committee investigating the bridge scandal. Wildstein repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent during an appearance before the panel tasked with investigating the bridge access lane closures. – Adam Aigner-Treworgy

– Christie On Wildstein: ‘David and I were not friends in high school’-
CHRISTIE AT PRESSER: “David and I were not friends in high school. We were not even acquaintances in high school. I mean, I had a high school, Livingston, a three year high school that had 1,800 students …. I knew who he was. I met David on the Tom Kean for Governor campaign in 1977. He was a youth volunteer and so was I. Really after that time I completely lost touch with David. We didn’t travel in the same circles in high school. You know, I was the class president and athlete. I don’t know what David was doing during that period of time … We went 23 years without seeing each other.”

MARKET WATCH: U.S. stocks end little changed as investors await the December jobs report. Dow dips 17 points.

TRAIL TRIVIA
(Answer below)
Which politician made history with a news conference that ran for 4 hours and 47 minutes in 1995?

the LEDE
Did you miss it?

In non-Christie news on CNNPolitics: Source: Bipartisan Senators nearing unemployment deal
Bipartisan negotiators are nearing an agreement on extending emergency unemployment benefits in a way that Democrats hope will satisfy Republican demands to offset the cost, a source close to the negotiations told CNN. The source said discussions center around extending the emergency benefits through November of this year at a cost of $18 billion. – Ted Barrett

Leading Drudge: FEEDING FRENZY! TOP AIDE FIRED
Christie, who had previously assured the public his staff wasn’t involved in the road closings, said Thursday he had fired Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly “because she lied to me.”

Leading HuffPo: Chris Christie Apologizes For Bridge Scandal, Insists He's 'Not A Bully'
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) apologized to the residents of his state Thursday, saying he had fired his deputy chief of staff and cut ties with his top political adviser after learning they had carried out a mean-spirited political payback scheme that caused massive traffic jams around the country's busiest bridge. – Amanda Terkel

Leading New York Times: Woman Says Lane Closings Were Not to Blame for Her Mother’s Death
The daughter of a 91-year-old woman from Fort Lee, N.J., who died on the day of a major traffic jam precipitated by top aides to Gov. Chris Christie said on Thursday that she did not believe the inability of an ambulance to reach her mother’s house was a factor in her death. “I honestly believe it was just her time,” said Vilma Oleri, whose mother, Florence Genova, died on the morning of Sept. 9, the first day that the closing of local lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge set off the snarls. – Nat Schweber

HOT SOTS
The political bites of the day

– Rush: ’If Chris Christie were a Democrat, the press would be celebrating the guy’–
RUSH LIMBAUGH ON HIS NATIONALLY SYNDICATED RADIO SHOW: “If Chris Christie were a Democrat, I'm telling you right now the press would be celebrating the guy. They'd be celebrating the toughness and the no-nonsense manner in which this guy is dealing with political opponents. Even if the mayor of Fort Lee was another Democrat, it doesn't matter, they wouldn't be trying to damage Chris Christie at all. This would end up being a resume enhancement because this is a guy who goes after his enemies. If he was a Democrat, they'd be praising him.”

– Fort Lee Mayor: ‘I won’t be shunning Chris Christie’ –
FORT LEE MAYOR MARK SOKOLICH, REACTING TO PRESSER: “I'm a forgiving guy. Thank you for the apology. We are grateful for it.”

– Rep. Bill Pascrell: Kelly didn’t act alone –
REP. BILL PASCRELL, D-NEW JERSEY: "My major thoughts are with the people of Fort Lee. They're the victims, not the governor. What I got from this press conference is he was making himself the victim. Now, if you want me to believe that Bridget (Kelly) got up one morning and thought of this and concocted this idea of jamming the traffic of Fort Lee, pushing that traffic back for hours, if you want me to believe that, I don't believe that whatsoever."

– Obama gets personal at speech on poverty –
PRESIDENT OBAMA AT THE WHITE HOUSE: “If you want to know why I care about this stuff so much … there was a period of time in my life where I was goofing off. I was raised by a single mom. I didn't know my dad. … If I can make it … every kid in this country can make it.”

TOP TWEETS
What stopped us in 140 characters or less

Glenn Thrush‏ (@GlennThrush)
We are all citizens of New Jersey today

Jennifer Granholm (@JenGranholm)
Biggest Q about Christie story: why did his Gov office culture allow/encourage this? Bridget Kelly=rogue? Hard to believe.

Mo Elleithee‏ (@MoElleithee)
How can he be surprised by the “tone of the emails?” Has he not seen the tapes of his own pressers and town hall meetings?

Donna Brazile (@donnabrazile)
#ChrisChristie just said he's stunned, but haven't gotten to the angry stage. My advice: I would be hopping mad and furious over this mess.

Hari Sevugan‏ (@HariSevugan)
Admittedly reacting w/ "soul searching" instead of anger shows Christie thinks is about him being hurt and not the people being hurt.

daveweigel (‏@daveweigel)
Obama learning about IRS scandal "in the newspaper": Bad. Christie learning about bridge scandal via newspaper: #leadership.

Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley)
.@GovChristie did the right thing in taking responsibility in a tough situation. http://goo.gl/nnuLZQ

Peter Hamby (‏@PeterHambyCNN)
curious how GOP base views Christie? check the comments section of Nikki Haley's Facebook post: http://www.facebook.com/NikkiHaley

Kasie Hunt (‏@kasie)
Lindsey Graham, R-First-in-the-South: Bridgegate "reinforces a narrative that's troublesome about the guy [Christie], he's kind of a bully."

Dana Bash (‏@DanaBashCNN)
Just talked to @GrahamBlog in the hallway. Said criticism of @GovChristie was b/f he saw newser. After watching: "I’m very impressed"

Robert Yoon (‏@yoonrob)
From I AM NOT A CROOK & I AM NOT A WITCH to I AM NOT A BULLY: the Political "I AM" Statement Hall of Fame. #Christie http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2014/01/09/to-be-or-not-to-be-a-politician/

Erick Erickson ‏(@EWErickson)
Remember that time Barack Obama held a press conference to publicly fire people for the screw up in Benghazi. No?

Victor Hernandez ‏(@ToTheVictor)
7 years ago today Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone to the world I http://news.cnet.com/8301-13579_3-57616956-37/when-iphone-met-world-7-years-ago-today/

TRIVIA ANSWER from @sarafischer and @danabashCNN

Rep. Enid Greene Waldholtz, R-Utah, holds an impressive record with her 4 hours, 47 minute press conference on December 11, 1995.

Waldholtz took to the podium to answer questions about campaign finance issues and her marriage. While she made the annals of history for the length of her press conference, Waldholtz determined the negative publicity would doom her chances at the ballot box and she decided not to seek re-election.

GUT CHECK WINNER’S CIRCLE
(why aren’t you in it)

Congrats to Melanie Parker (@parkerml) for correctly answering today’s Gut Check Trivia question.

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soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    I listened to Governor Christie's news conference today; something just isn't right. He has been my Attorney General and Governor for many years and I have met him twice. When he feels he is right, he will come out swinging. He was just too....let's say contrite, or maybe controlled and evenhanded in his speech and demeanor. I really have to question what he actually knew and what he is saying. The facts will come out, but I think he is hiding something.

    January 9, 2014 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  2. Larry in Houston

    don't have to worry about this guy running for the next occupant of the W.H. – after this episode, it won't be forgotten very soon...Trouble is : who have they got ? Charlie Crist ? no – Jindal ? no – McDonnell ? no – "uncle Jeb" ? no – anybody got any other prospects ?

    January 10, 2014 01:59 am at 1:59 am |