Chris Christie at State of the State: ‘Mistakes Were Clearly Made’

But at the annual address, the New Jersey governor largely avoided speaking about the scandals engulfing his administration.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks about his knowledge of a traffic study that snarled traffic at the George Washington Bridge during a news conference on January 9, 2014 at the Statehouse in Trenton, New Jersey.
National Journal
Matt Berman
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Matt Berman
Jan. 14, 2014, 10:42 a.m.

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The state of New Jer­sey is “good and it is get­ting bet­ter,” its gov­ernor said in the an­nu­al State of the State ad­dress on Tues­day. The state of the gov­ernor is an­oth­er ques­tion.

“The last week has cer­tainly tested this ad­min­is­tra­tion,” Chris Christie began, al­lud­ing to, but not ex­pli­citly men­tion­ing, the George Wash­ing­ton Bridge scan­dal en­gulf­ing his ad­min­is­tra­tion. “Mis­takes were clearly made. And, as a res­ult, we let down the people we are en­trus­ted to serve. I know our cit­izens de­serve bet­ter. Much bet­ter.”

The gov­ernor ad­ded that his ad­min­is­tra­tion would not let the scan­dal “define us or our state,” and said that the gov­ern­ment’s work will con­tin­ue.

Christie’s pre­pared re­marks did not in­clude the words “bridge” or “Fort Lee.” And after a nearly in­fin­ite press con­fer­ence last week, the gov­ernor could be for­giv­en for mov­ing along to the oth­er is­sues fa­cing his state, pre­dom­in­ately edu­ca­tion. The word “bi­par­tis­an,” on the oth­er hand, came up five times.

Tues­day brought some more tricky news for the gov­ernor on the bridge scan­dal. The Wall Street Journ­al pub­lished a photo of Christie and the Port Au­thor­ity ap­pointee at the heart of the scan­dal, Dav­id Wild­stein, that was taken on day three of the traffic jam. Last week, Christie tried to dis­tance him­self from Wild­stein, say­ing that des­pite be­ing high school class­mates, they had a dis­tant re­la­tion­ship.

“I was the class pres­id­ent and ath­lete,” Christie said at his press con­fer­ence. “I don’t know what Dav­id was do­ing dur­ing that peri­od of time.” The con­fer­ence also fea­tured this line, which now is seem­ing at least a bit prob­lem­at­ic: 

You know, I could prob­ably count on one hand the num­ber of con­ver­sa­tions I’ve had with Dav­id since he worked at the Port Au­thor­ity. I did not in­ter­act with Dav­id.

Of course, the George Wash­ing­ton Bridge scan­dal isn’t the only thing plaguing Christie. He’s also fa­cing a fed­er­al in­vest­ig­a­tion over how his ad­min­is­tra­tion used $25 mil­lion in Hur­ricane Sandy aid for a state ad cam­paign.

The gov­ernor does not men­tion the Sandy in­vest­ig­a­tion in his pre­pared re­marks. But he does say he “will not rest un­til every per­son hurt by Sandy has their life back. That is my mis­sion.”

Just hint­ing around scan­dal isn’t go­ing to make things any easi­er for the gov­ernor. There isn’t much Christie can do or say right now to make all this fade away.

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