Opinion

Chris Christie apology a lesson in leadership for Democrats

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,New Jersey,2016 Elections,Chris Christie,Ashe Schow

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie got straight to the point Thursday over the New Jersey bridge scandal, apologizing to his state and firing those responsible, including two of his closest aides.

It's a stark contrast to how President Obama and other Democrats have handled recent scandals of their own, and could help preserve Christie's chances as a presidential candidate in 2016 -- as long as he didn't lie. If he did, he's toast.

"I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue ... and I am stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here," Christie said, noting that he was ultimately responsible for the problems that tied up traffic in the borough of Fort Lee.

Compare that to what Obama has said about those who lost their insurance under Obamacare after repeatedly promising that they could keep it.

"I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me," Obama told NBC News on Nov. 7.

It was a clear duck, compared to Christie's adamant acceptance of blame. Obama would then bury that apology in a speech about how the health care law would ultimately help Americans.

It was one of the few times Obama would take any kind of responsibility over the disastrous rollout of Obamacare, especially its website, which officials knew would be problematic before its launch.

"Since I'm in charge, obviously we screwed it up," he said at a Dec. 20 news conference. But even that admission was buried in a long list of ways Obamacare was helping people and why Americans should like it.

And don’t forget the blame Obama put on Republicans and insurance companies for Obamacare’s shortcomings.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's apology for the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, was equally unsatisfactory.

“I take responsibility,” Clinton said a month after the attacks, before saying the situation had been too confusing to make a definitive call. But Clinton also contemptuously pushed back against any attempt to pin her on Benghazi, declaring, "What difference, at this point, does it make?"

Following their “apologies,” Obama and Clinton each promised to investigate further the situations and set up reviews of the processes to determine wrongdoing.

But no one was ever fired following those reviews.

Four State Department officials were put on “administrative leave” following the Benghazi review, but still received paychecks. They were ultimately returned to active duty without any further disciplinary action.

As for the Obamacare website failures, no one had even been placed on leave, leaving the Washington Post's Ezra Klein to question, “Why hasn't anyone been fired over healthcare.gov?”

Christie, by contrast, took immediate action to fire those responsible for the bridge scandal, including his deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, "because she lied to me."

Christie also severed ties with his former campaign manager, Bill Stepien, and essentially ended Stepien's political career. Christie told Stepien to withdraw his nomination for New Jersey state GOP chairman and to end his consultancy to the Republican Governors Association.

The contrast between Clinton's waffling on Benghazi and Christie's quick and decisive action — and clear acceptance of responsibility — could help him if he has to face her in 2016.

But as I said before: If any evidence comes forward to contradict what he said Thursday, his career is finished.

Full disclosure: While working on political campaigns in New Jersey in 2009, I also assisted in Christie’s first election.

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