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Opinion: Columnists

Is scandal a bridge too far, or water under the bridge for Chris Christie?

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Opinion,Noemie Emery,Columnists,Republican Party,2016 Elections,Chris Christie,Bridge Scandal

"A Bridge Too Far," a "Bridge to Nowhere," a "Bridge over Troubled Water" -- the bridge over the Hudson River between historic and lovely Fort Lee in New Jersey and Washington Heights in upper Manhattan may be the bridge to 2016 for the Republican Party, as it is shaping its future in various ways.

If Chris Christie approved, instigated or even heard of the plan to pressure New Jersey Democrats by letting constituents simmer for four days in gridlock, he would in all senses be dead in the water. But the people who think he subjected thousands to this for the sake of "revenge" on a dubious Democrat may be misjudging both him and revenge.

As those who love it know well, revenge is indeed sweet, but it is also a targeted strike at someone who wronged you, a strike that is precise in its target and limited in its extent. There is no such thing as revenge that hurts thousands and thousands of innocent people for the purpose of dinging a whole other party that may have no idea why this occurred.

Christie may savor revenge, in the blow-for-blow sense of the term, but he has shown no interest before in striking a blow against innocent people; in fact, he has shown instead a strong sense of stewardship towards his state and its people, and is protective of those in distress. If he blew off the first reports that his staff was involved, it is likely because he found them incredible. As Jennifer Rubin points out, his operational mode, after the drama, is to cut deals with others and give special attention to places and voters that don’t always back him. As the National Journal observes, he’s more diva than bully, and hardly a gleeful tormentor of drivers. But this doesn’t mean all is well.

That said, it is time for Christie to ask himself what he said, did or projected that made so many top-tier advisers decide it was okay or even encouraged to toy with the lives of innocent drivers in the effort to do God knows what.

Peggy Noonan is hardly the first to have noted that the staff is sometimes ahead of the candidate in its zeal and ambition, and that winning, like alcohol, goes to one’s head. Christieland had been giddy enough in the months before and since its big win in November, which was inflated by having no real competition, a fact not sufficiently weighed.

Christie would do well to cut back on some of the bluster. He is lucky this broke in 2013, not in 2016, during the primaries, convention or in the days just before the November election, as happened to George W. Bush and his long-ago driving citation, which cost enough votes to drive him into the Florida recount and cast a long-lasting cloud on his win. Revenge is best eaten cold, but also prepared well. Living well is the best revenge, but then so is winning. He can't let vindictiveness poison the well.

He should admit that he took his eye off the ball and off his underlings, vow to do better and ask people to judge him on how he and his new team will behave from now on. Of course, one slip would mean he would be underwater. But, on the other hand, if all is smooth sailing, by the time Election Day rolls around in 2016, it could be nothing more than water under the bridge.

Noemie Emery, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."
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