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.